Nasim Aghdam: YouTube shooting suspect visited firing range hours before attack on California campus

Authorities now believe suspect was motivated by anger at YouTube's policies

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Wednesday 04 April 2018 22:08 BST
YouTube shooting: Suspect Nasim Najafi Aghdam motivated by anger at streaming service’s policies, authorities say

Hours before YouTube employees were sent fleeing from a shooter on their campus, the suspected assailant practised her aim at a shooting range.

Shortly afterwards Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39, strode into the video streaming giant’s headquarters and opened fire with a legally obtained Smith and Wesson semiautomatic handgun before fatally shooting herself, authorities said.

An emerging timeline suggests that Ms Aghdam travelled from southern California to Silicon Valley in the days before the shooting, propelled by a sense of grievance at YouTube.

“It is believed the suspect was upset with policies and practices of YouTube”, San Bruno police chief Ed Barberini told reporters. “This appears to have been the motive for this incident”.

Her family told San Diego authorities that she had disappeared at the end of March, Mr Barberini said. She resurfaced more than 725 km (450 miles) later in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, where police officers discovered her sleeping in the car early in the morning the day before the shooting.

With no reason to detain Ms Aghdam, Mountain View police officers moved on and contacted her family.

In an initial conversation with authorities, Ms Aghdam’s father gave no indication that his daughter had any weapons or was nursing a grievance against YouTube, the Mountain View police department said. About an hour later, the father called back to say his daughter believed YouTube had done something to upset her but did not hint at looming violence.

The next day, she visited the gun range. She then parked her car behind a business near YouTube's headquarters, entered the campus through a garage and began firing, authorities said.

Mountain View authorities had not communicated with the San Bruno police about their interaction with Ms Aghdam or their conversation with her family, Mr Barberini said.

YouTube HQ: Suspect Nasim Aghdam appears in video accusing YouTube of discrimination

As authorities executed search warrants on two southern California residences associated with Ms Aghdam, their investigation turned to her online life and her apparent belief that YouTube had worked to silence her.

Investigators reconstructing Ms Aghdam’s history have a long digital trail to follow. A website under her name featured angry diatribes about YouTube suppressing her content and impacting her traffic.

“Youtube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!“ the site says, adding that “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!”

Investigators were working to gain access to and comb through Ms Aghdam's social media postings in an effort to further elucidate her motives, Mr Barberini said. She is believed to have acted alone.

In response to a question about allegations that certain users and videos are downplayed, YouTube pointed The Independent to public statements in which Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki expressed grief and thanked first responders.

“There are no words to describe how horrible it was to have an active shooter @YouTube today”, Ms Wojcicki said. “Our deepest gratitude to law enforcement & first responders for their rapid response. Our hearts go out to all those injured & impacted today. We will come together to heal as a family.”

The website under Ms Aghdam’s name also features content promoting veganism and featuring animals, buttressing evidence that Ms Aghdam may have been involved in animal rights activism. A 2009 Los Angeles Times story quoted a woman by the same name at a demonstration saying “animal rights equals human rights”.

Two of the three people who sustained gunshot wounds had been released from the hospital, a spokesman told reporters, and a third is still being treated had seen his condition improve from critical to serious.

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