At least 10 people were shot in Auckland on Thursday morning during an employee’s shotgun attack on a high-rise construction site on Queen Street.
Three of them have died, including the gunman.
Police have revealed that 24-year-old shooter Matu Tangi Matua Reid, who was found dead after barricading himself in an elevator shaft and firing at police, was on home detention at the time of the shooting but had an exemption to travel to his workplace at the site.
A witness first called the incident in at 7.23am, reporting there was a man with a gun, shooting inside a construction site on lower Queen Street.
The gunman moved through the site at Number 1 Queen St, part of the Commercial Bay development, shooting as he went. Construction workers had to barricade themselves in offices and on the roof for safety, while others were progressively evacuated. When the shooter reached the upper levels he shut himself inside an elevator shaft.
Police attempted to engage with him, but the gunman fired further shots and was found dead a short time later.
It was not yet clear if he was killed by police fire.
One officer was critically injured in the exchange, but is now in a stable condition in hospital.
Police found two people dead in the lower levels of the building at the bottom of Queen Street.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told media in Auckland on Thursday afternoon the man was known to police for domestic violence but there had been no indication he presented further danger than that. He was wearing an electronic bracelet at the time of the shooting but wasn’t breaching his conditions as he had permission to travel to work. He did not have a licence for the shotgun.
Meanwhile, St John’s general manager of ambulance operations Stuart Cockburn said 10 people had been assessed for injuries. Seven were from gunshot wounds and the victims were admitted to hospital. Three had suffered minor injuries.
At least one other person took themselves to Auckland City Hospital with a gunshot wound.
Coster said there was no suggestion the attack was ideological, and believed it was related to some kind of workplace issue.
“We can provide reassurance that there is no reason for ongoing concern,” he said.
The man had previously had his home searched as a part of his prior conviction of domestic violence, but no guns had been found.
Superintendent Sunny Patel earlier confirmed earlier that two people had been killed and multiple others were in hospital.
“What has unfolded is understandably alarming and we are reassuring the public that this incident has been contained and is an isolated incident.”
Police were launching an investigation into what had happened, but could confirm it was not a risk to national security.
“Cordons remain in place and we are continuing to ask the public to stay away from the area as our work continues,” said Patel.
The shooting happened on the opening day of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Auckland tonight, with international teams and dignitaries staying in hotels in Auckland’s CBD.
No national security risk
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins made the call at Wellington Airport this morning to cancel a trip to Hamilton and make his way back to the Beehive for a briefing.
At a press conference shortly after 10am he said: “It’s with deep sorrow I can confirm that two people have been killed and six others injured.”
He understood those killed were civilians.
“The assessment from officials is that there is no national security risk and no change to New Zealand’s national security threat level.”
He paid tribute to the bravery of police who had walked into the building after arriving and hearing gunshots. “The actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic.”
It was a huge concern members of the public and police had been injured. As a former police minister he knew the “entire blue whānau” would be affected by today’s events.
“I want to thank the brave men and women of the New Zealand Police who ran into fire from the gunman straight into harm’s way in order to save the lives of others.
“This has been a very grim morning for us.”
The Prime Minister was emotional and welling up recalling first hearing about the incident on arrival at the airport.
“Obviously my first initial reaction was concern for anybody who was at risk.
“We rely on our police, front line police, to put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. When any incident like this happens, I think we will all feel that, and all send our love and support to the New Zealand Police who are doing an amazing job.”
The information so far suggests there’s no identified political or ideological motivation for the shooting, which has prompted the national security level to remain unchanged.
Hipkins said the FIFA World Cup which opens tonight at Eden Park in Auckland would go ahead as planned.
“Clearly there are a lot of eyes on Auckland at the moment…. Aucklanders and those around the world can be assured that the police have neutralised the threat and they are not seeking any one else in relation to the incident.”
A witness told 1 News the incident had begun on Level 3 and a worker told the NZ Herald he encountered an armed man wearing black on a stairwell after a fire alarm went off and the gunman ordered him and others to move up to the roof.
The standoff began around 7.20am and caused widespread disruption throughout the central city.
Video online captured around eight shots about 8.20am as police moved building teams away across lower Queen St and Quay St.
At least one police officer was injured, seen being led to an ambulance with injuries resulting from what one witness told Stuff was a gunshot wound. St John Ambulance said three people had been treated for serious injuries and three other for moderate injuries.
During the standoff, workers on site barricaded themselves in offices or sheltered behind equipment, including a group on the building’s roof and one staff member stuck up in the cab of the site’s crane. Office workers in nearby buildings were told to stay where they were until the emergency ended.
The police Armed Offenders Squad and other armed officers went floor to floor combing the building in search of the gunman and evacuating any sheltering workers.
Peak hour public transport and traffic was stopped across the lower city and ferry passengers held on vessels circling off Queen’s Wharf for a time.
The opening World Cup match in Auckland is at Eden Park tonight and the main fanzone is at The Cloud venue on Queen’s Wharf across from the building site under siege.
FIFA said around 10am that none of its executives were impacted by the incident.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said he was shocked and saddened by the events, but reiterated that it was an isolated incident.
“I can’t remember anything like this ever happening in our beautiful city. This morning’s events have been tragic and distressing for all Aucklanders, as this is not something that we are used to,” Brown said.
“This appears to be the act of one individual, this was not a threat to national security, nor was it in any way related to the FIFA Women’s World Cup event.
“While the details of the victims have not yet been confirmed, I want to express my condolences to their families. I also want express sympathy for those in the construction industry and commuters who will be feeling on edge following this incident.
The FIFA opening game would still go ahead tonight, he said, and “the city is ready, and I will be in attendance”.
Sports Minister Grant Robertson said today’s events around the tournament would continue as planned and Hipkins said he would keep under review today his own planned attendance at the New Zealand vs Norway match, depending on developments from the shooting inquiry.
He hadn’t had any conversations with world leader counterparts, but assurances had been made through diplomatic channels that there was no further risk and the tournament would carry on.
Meanwhile, police are reassuring the public they can continue to come into the CBD.
“However, please stay clear of the police cordon at the lower part of Queen Street while our work continues at the scene.
“Police are in the process of speaking to the large number of witnesses.”
Police say anyone who was involved or witnessed today’s events, who hasn’t yet made themselves known, should contact them via 105 as soon as possible.