Gunman kills 2 in New Zealand on morning of Women's World Cup opener; tournament will go on

Armed New Zealand police officer stand at a road block in the central business district following a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023. New Zealand police are responding to reports that a gunman has fired shots in a building in downtown Auckland. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Armed New Zealand police officers stand at a road block in the central business district following a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A gunman killed two people and injured multiple others in downtown Auckland on Thursday morning, roughly 12 hours before the Women's World Cup opener.

The gunman is also dead, police said, and the situation is under control.

Authorities said the tournament, which is being co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, will go on. U.S. Soccer said its women's national team players and staff were all safe and accounted for, and officials soon confirmed all other teams are safe as well.

But the incident shocked Auckland's Central Business District in the 7 a.m. hour. Police said the gunman entered a construction site and opened fire. Several workers were seen crouching behind piles of building materials, local media reported.

Dozens of officers responded to the scene and shut down central roads. The shooting occurred near the Britomart train station, and disrupted transport for multiple hours.

The World Cup opener is set to kick off at 7 p.m. local time (3 a.m. ET), a few miles southwest at Eden Park.

Norway, which will play New Zealand in the opener, is staying at the M Social hotel, a few blocks away from the scene of the shooting, but was unaffected, a team spokesperson told Yahoo Sports.

Norway captain Maren Mjelde said in a statement through the spokesperson:

"Everyone probably woke up quite quickly when the helicopter hovered outside the hotel window and a large number of emergency vehicles arrived. At first we didn't know what was going on, but eventually there were updates on TV and the local media.

"We felt safe the whole time. FIFA has a good security system at the hotel, and we have our own security officer in the squad. Everyone seems calm and we are preparing as normal for the game tonight. Then we may have to adapt if there are any instructions from the authorities."

New Zealand's soccer federation also said in a statement that "preparations for the game tonight at Eden Park will continue as planned."

The Philippines team hotel, the Mövenpick, is also a few blocks away. The USWNT is also among the six teams staying in Auckland. But all delegations are safe.

"Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule," U.S. Soccer said in a statement — though it also pushed back an afternoon news conference by one hour.

"What has unfolded is understandably alarming and we are reassuring the public that this incident has been contained and is an isolated incident," New Zealand Police said in a statement. "We can also advise that this is not a national security risk."

Chris Hipkins, New Zealand's prime minister, addressed the nation in the 10 a.m. hour, reiterated similar messages and said there would be an increased police presence at Thursday's opener.