An Australian woman living in New Zealand has described the terrifying moment she ran for cover after hearing gunshots during a mass shooting in Auckland on Thursday.
At least three people, including the gunman, were killed when a man opened fire at a construction site hours before the start of the Women’s Soccer World Cup there.
The 24-year-old shooter was wearing an ankle monitor when he entered a building on Lower Queen Street at 7.20am local time on Thursday.
Australian Erin Sokolowski told the Today Show that she was on her way to work when the chaos erupted.
‘It’s starting to hurt a little bit, especially when you hear that people have died,’ she said.
Australian woman Erin Sokolowski (pictured) describes the terrifying moment she ran for a gun after a mass shooting in Auckland on Thursday
‘You obviously put yourself in a position where you could have been yourself, when you were close enough to hear the shots.
‘I was a bit shocked and I shed a few tears.’
Ms Sokolowski said the reality of what had happened was beginning to sink in for her.
‘It’s really cool… I was going to attend some (World Cup) celebrations tonight, and I’m not really feeling it anymore…
‘I ran in fear. And now hearing that people have died and wondering if I could be myself, of course I won’t go out and celebrate tonight.
‘And I’m sorry for all the hard work that went into it.
‘Your biggest fear, I think, is other people seeing it and copying (the event).’
NZ Police are depicted on scene in the Auckland CBD, New Zealand, responding to a mass shooting
She said she saw a stabbing outside her window a few weeks ago. ‘It’s a bit too much… it’s too overwhelming.
‘As humans we really don’t want to experience these kinds of things and it takes a really horrible … kind of person to do something like that.
‘In a matter of half an hour to an hour it made almost the entire city of the CBD feel unsafe.
‘What’s bothering me is not the fault of the police – I think that something could be done to improve safety around the city – but the biggest fear is what will happen to your mental state.
‘No matter how safe you are told or if you know the threat is gone, the challenge now is to stay with that feeling…
“We are slowly seeing the deterioration of security in the city. I think that’s a serious part because (extreme violence) is becoming more and more common,’ he said.
Police interview construction workers in the central business district after a mass shooting Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Earlier, Ms. Sokolowski described how the shooting unfolded. ‘I’ve never seen anything this big, so obviously something was going on,’ he said.
‘Within a minute of walking around waiting for the (construction site) lights, the shooting starts and people start running left, right and centre.
‘They said five shots. It looked better than that. Really loud and felt really close and we couldn’t hear or see where it was coming from.
‘All we could do was run and hide behind a wall and hightail it from there.’
Ms. Sokolowski, who works just a block away on Collins St., told host Karl Stefanovic that the area is highly populated.
‘We don’t know what happened, who died… it was scary,’ she said.
‘Hearing the gunshots alone is enough to scare you, but you don’t know what’s going on and the confusion that follows.
‘I must say I’ve never experienced anything like you see in the movies before. A city means a place where people are safe.’
Ms Sokolowski praised the response of police who quickly cordoned off the area.
The NZ Herald reported that at least one of the injured was a police officer.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown tweeted, ‘This is a scary situation for Aucklanders on their Thursday morning commute.
‘Please stay at home, avoid traveling to the city centre.’
Passengers captured some of the police’s reactions in videos widely shared on social media.
A worker told news website Staff that he was heading towards the Shed 10 building at Queens Wharf when he saw police running towards the area with guns drawn.
Armed New Zealand police officers stand outside a hotel hosting a FIFA Women’s World Cup team in the central business district after a mass shooting in Auckland, Thursday, July 20, 2023.
An officer told him to run and go after hard and solid objects.
Dion Hosking said: ‘The area was not cordoned off until then.
‘There were hundreds of construction and office workers watching.
‘I was about to go in, and all of a sudden I heard bang, bang, bang.’
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hopkins said the gunman had no ideological or political motive.
He told a press conference that the perpetrator was armed with a pump-action shotgun and that the two men killed were innocent civilians.
“I want to thank the brave men and women of the New Zealand Police who rushed directly into the gunfire to save the lives of others,” he said.
‘Situations like this move quickly and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic.’
More to come…
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