At least two people were killed and several others injured after a gunman stormed a building under construction with a shotgun in the New Zealand city of Auckland early Thursday, hours before the first soccer match of the Women’s World Cup was scheduled to begin nearby.
The gunman was also killed, the police said in a post on Twitter.
The New Zealand Police began receiving reports of a person firing a gun inside the construction site about 7:20 a.m. local time, a police spokeswoman, Anna Thompson, said in an email.
Passers-by and commuters heard the volley of gunshots during rush hour. Armed police officers and vehicles swarmed the area, and the authorities shut down parts of the city.
The episode occurred as teams from New Zealand and Norway were set to play at Eden Park Stadium, about three miles from the site of the shooting. Several World Cup teams and many fans are staying in Auckland’s central business district, and the shooting occurred very close to Team Norway’s hotel and near a fan festival set up for the tournament.
The United States team, which will play its first game here against Vietnam in two days, is also staying in the area.
“Regarding the incident in downtown Auckland, all of our USWNT players and staff are accounted for and safe,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement, referring to the acronym for United States Women’s National Team. “Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”
The shooting took place in a busy downtown area crowded with office buildings and hotels across the street from a ferry terminal on the city’s waterfront.
The police said an armed man had entered the high-rise building — which is under construction and was occupied by dozens of construction workers, on lower Queen Street — and went floor by floor while shooting.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Chris Hipkins, said at a news conference that the shooter was armed with a pump-action shotgun and that it appears that the gunman acted alone.
Within minutes, hundreds of police officers carrying automatic weapons descended on the site, warning people to take cover and ushering them out of the area. Streets were closed in a two-block area, and a police helicopter hovered overhead. Officers pursued the gunman to the upper floors, and once there, an exchange of gunfire — audible on the street below the tower — ensured.
“Upon reaching the upper levels of the building, the male has contained himself within the elevator shaft and our staff have attempted to engage with him,” the police said. “Further shots were fired from the male and he was located deceased a short time later.”
Mr. Hipkins said the gunman had made his way toward the elevator, and that was where his body was later found. The gunman was not immediately identified.
Construction workers, many of whom hid in the building during the shooting, were released hours later, and the police cleared the building.
A motive for the shooting and other details were not immediately available.
The mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown, said in a post on Twitter: “This is a scary situation for Aucklanders on their Thursday morning commute to work. Please stay at home, avoid travel into the city centre.”
Norway’s players were all in their hotel during the shooting; some were still asleep, but local news reports said a few had come down for breakfast in a dining room just off the ground floor lobby. As the police moved to close off access to the area around the shooting, security guards asked members of the Norway delegation to stay inside the hotel, according to the president of Norway’s soccer federation, Lise Klaveness.
“Everything is calm in the Norwegian squad,” Halvor Lea, a spokesman for the Norway women’s team, said in a statement. “Preparations are going as normal.”
In another statement, Maren Mjelde, the captain of the Norway team, said, many players most likely had woken up to the sound of a helicopter outside the window of their hotel and the emergency vehicles that had arrived out front.
“We felt safe the whole time,” she said.
In New Zealand, gun ownership is relatively low and gun violence is considered rare. But in 1997, six people were killed and four others injured in the North Island town of Raurimu. And in 1990, a gunman in the town of Aramoana killed 13 people and injured three others.
Then, in March 2019, 51 people were killed in a mass shooting after a white supremacist opened fire on Muslims at prayer in two mosques in Christchurch.
Days later, Jacinda Ardern, then prime minister, announced a temporary ban on most semiautomatic weapons, and a monthslong gun buyback and amnesty program began. Later that year, a sweeping nationwide ban on the weapons went into effect.
Tariq Panja contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia.