The woman who opened fire on three people before killing herself at YouTube’s California headquarters has been identified as a frequent user of the site who was furious with the company for their ‘dictatorial’ new policies.
Nasim Aghdam, 39, shot a man and two women with a handgun when she stormed YouTube‘s headquarters in San Bruno on Tuesday afternoon.
Aghdam was a prolific YouTuber who had ranted online against the company’s new policies and accused them of censoring her videos.
Witnesses say Aghdam was wearing glasses and a scarf when she managed to walk onto the YouTube campus and open fire on employees in what police believe is a random shooting.
Law enforcement officials had initially said the shooting was being investigated as a domestic dispute after early indications suggested she had shot her boyfriend.
Aghdam, who was a self-described animal rights activist and ‘vegan bodybuilder’, had a significant online presence with multiple YouTube channels and social media pages.
In a video that Aghdam posted back in January 2017, she vented about her content being censored. She also said that her YouTube channel, which had more than 5,000 subscribers, used to get many views but claimed she started getting less when the company ‘filtered’ her videos.
Aghdam’s YouTube channels and social media pages were all removed in the hours after the shooting.
Her father Ismail Aghdam said she had told family members that YouTube had stopped paying her for content she posted on the site. YouTube video creators can earn money from advertisements, but for various reasons the firm sometimes ‘de-monetizes’ channels meaning clips don’t run with adverts.
He told the Bay Area News Group that he had warned police his daughter hated YouTube and she might be headed to their headquarters.
He had reported her missing from Southern California on Monday morning after she went two days without answering her phone. Ismail said police contacted him at about 2am on Tuesday to say they had found her sleeping in her car roughly 470 miles from her home town.
Ismail said police told him that everything was ‘in control’ but he told them she had spoken of her hatred of YouTube in recent weeks.
Hours later at about 1pm, officers and federal agents swarmed YouTube’s headquarters after dozens of panicked employees called 911 to report gunfire.
When they arrived, police found Aghdam dead from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said three people were taken to hospitals in San Francisco with gunshot wounds. Investigators do not believe Nasim Aghdam specifically targeted the three victims.
A 36-year-old man was in critical condition, a 32-year-old woman was in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman was in fair condition following the shooting.
Television news footage showed terrified employees leaving the building in a line, holding their arms in the air for police to inspect as they were leaving the building.
Officers patted down people to make sure none had weapons as police vehicles surrounded the area.
Senior software engineer Zach Vorhies said a fire alarm had gone off in the building and workers were calmly evacuating before they realized it was an active shooting.
Vorhies said as they were leaving he saw the shooter in a courtyard yelling: ‘Come at me, or come get me.’
He said he froze and then noticed a victim on his back with what looked like a gunshot wound to his stomach. Vorhies said an officer with an assault rifle then came through a security door.
Another employee, Dianna Arnspiger, said she was on the building’s second floor when she heard gun shots, ran to a window and saw the shooter on a patio outside.
She said the woman wore glasses and a scarf and was using a ‘big huge pistol.’
‘It was a woman and she was firing her gun. I just said, ‘Shooter,’ and everybody started running,’ Arnspiger said. ‘It was terrifying.’
The police chief said at a press conference that officers discovered one victim with a gunshot wound when they arrived and then found the shooter with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound several minutes later.
He said two additional gunshot victims were later located at an adjacent business and that a fourth injured person suffered an ankle injury.
The adjacent business was a Carl’s Jr on the same plaza where two women fled after being shot.
Police did not release any further information on the suspect or comment on her possible motives for the shooting rampage.
The shooting had no known connection to terrorism, US government security officials said.
Disturbing live accounts were given by YouTube employees who took to Twitter as the shooting unfolded.
In a flurry of tweets, project manager Todd Sherman said: ‘We were sitting in a meeting and then we heard people running because it was rumbling the floor. First thought was earthquake.
‘After existing (sic) the room we still didn’t know what was going on but more people were running. Seemed serious and not like a drill.
‘We headed towards the exit and then saw more people and someone said that there was a person with a gun. S**t.
‘At that point every new person I saw was a potential shooter. Someone else said that the person shot out the back doors and then shot themselves.
‘I looked down and saw blood drips on the floor and stairs. Peaked (sic) around for threats and then we headed downstairs and out the front.’
Employee Vadim Lavrusik was one of the first to report the shooting, tweeting at around 1pm on Tuesday: ‘Active shooter at YouTube HQ. Heard shots and saw people running while at my desk. Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers.’
Soon after, he tweeted: ‘Safe. Got evacuated it. Outside now.’
Google CEO Sundar Pichai called the shooting a ‘horrific act of violence’.
He said the parent company of YouTube was doing everything it can to support the victims and their families.
Pichai also said the company ‘will continue to provide support to help everyone in our Google family heal from this unimaginable tragedy’.
The YouTube headquarters has more than a thousand engineers and other employees in several buildings on its 200,000 sq ft campus.