Yesterday, at approximately 12:46PM local time, multiple 911 calls were made from 901 Cherry Ave in San Bruno, California, the headquarters of YouTube. Police arrived, responding to an active shooter who we now know to be Nasim Najafi Aghdam, a 39-year-old from San Diego.
Early reports made a variety of inaccurate claims about the incidents: That the shooting had caused over three dozen casualties, that the shooter’s target was her boyfriend, and that the shooter was a Muslim. We now know none of that is true.
Aghdam shot four people including herself. A fifth person injured her ankle. Police believe Aghdam did not personally know or target anyone at YouTube’s HQ. And various posts on her social media make clear that Aghdam is of the Bahai faith, although authorities have not indicated that her religion is in any way consequential to yesterday’s shooting.
Police have yet to speculate on Aghdam’s motivations for carrying out the attack. A vegan, bodybuilder, animal-rights activist and artist, her social media profiles have mostly been terminated following her rampage, videos she uploaded to DailyMotion were made unavailable yesterday, and her personal webpage – nasimesabz.com – remains reachable. (Aghdam also used the domain nasimabc.com, which is also still online after appearing to be offline last night.)
Screenshot: Daily Motion
An avid YouTuber, Aghdam maintained four channels, but complained on her site about perceived suppression of her content by the platform. Screenshots she posted show declining views and revenue to her channels, and a statement that contains a quote from Adolf Hitler suggest she believed YouTube was responsible:
Embedded on her site among her own (now removed) videos were vlogs from platform heavyweight Casey Neistat and the considerably more niche channel Bite Size Vegan regarding YouTube’s “adpocalypse” – the perception that certain types of videos were made ineligible to receive ad revenue. Both videos were posted in mid-2016, suggesting Aghdam had been unhappy with YouTube for some time.
Other embedded videos include footage of animal cruelty, a text-to-speech video describing the risks of anal sex, as well as a vlog from Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson decrying “popular culture” as “more vulgar, vapid, self-absorbed, hedonistic, and dehumanising than at any other time in living memory”.
On March 31, Aghdam had been reported missing by her family, according to The Mercury News. Police found her sleeping in her car the morning of the shooting, nearly 805km from her home, and made contact. Her father said he told police that Aghdam “hated” YouTube prior to the attack. Her brother told an ABC affiliate in San Fransisco that the family had warned police his sibling might be headed to YouTube’s headquarters. Several hours later she would go on to shoot three strangers who worked for the company she believed to be censoring her.
Police believe Aghdam’s feelings of persecution regarding YouTube policy are the motive for the shooting. San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini added that Aghdam had visited a local gun range the morning before the shooting, and entered the YouTube building via a parking garage – though the exact method is still being determined. The Smith and Wesson 9mm semi-automatic she used to shoot three YouTube staffers and then herself was purchased legally.
Law enforcement are executing search warrants on two residences believed to be associated with Aghdam, and are combing through her social media posts.