Advertisement

Authorities probe whether woman who opened fire at YouTube had grudge against video platform

It's the website investigators are looking at as they try to piece together the motive of a woman — identified as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39 — who stormed onto YouTube's sprawling San Bruno, Calif., campus with a 9-millimeter handgun and opened fire in a courtyard during lunchtime, wounding three people before turning the gun on herself.

A woman opened fire at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., shooting three people with a handgun before taking her own life and causing widespread panic in the technology hub south of San Francisco.

San Bruno police identified the shooter as Nasim Aghdam, 39, a San Diego resident.

Advertisement

Investigators initially believed the shooting was a domestic incident, with the shooter targeting someone who worked on the YouTube campus. But San Bruno police said in a release late Tuesday that "there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted."

One law enforcement source said the investigation is now looking into a website that appears to show the same woman complaining about YouTube stifling traffic and suppressing videos. The source stressed that the investigation is in its preliminary stages.

"Youtube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!" reads the site, which along with complaints about the streaming video service includes videos promoting veganism and photos of a woman in an array of outfits, including long dresses and a camouflage unitard.

"There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!"

Social media accounts linked from the page were deactivated late Tuesday.

A YouTube account linked from the page was "terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations," according to the streaming video site.

About two weeks ago, Aghdam vented to her family that YouTube stopped compensating her for her videos, her father told the Bay Area News Group.

Ismail Aghdam said that the family had called police to report his daughter missing Monday because she hadn't answered her phone for two days. He said he had told police she might be going to YouTube because she "hated" the company.

He told the news agency he knew nothing about her owning a gun.

Police in Mountain View, Calif., say they spotted a woman who went by the name Nasim Aghdam asleep in a car in a city parking lot early Tuesday morning and notified her family.

"Our officers made contact with the woman after the license plate of her vehicle matched that of a missing person out of Southern California," Katie Nelson, a spokeswoman for the department, said via email. "The woman confirmed her identity to us and answered subsequent questions."

The shooting occurred in an outdoor area that's easier to access than other parts of the campus, the sources said.

San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini told reporters Tuesday afternoon that one person, believed to be the shooter, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Four people were taken to area hospitals for medical treatment, three with gunshot wounds.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Barberini said investigators were moving from a tactical to an investigative approach after searching the building floor by floor, room by room, and finding no immediate threat to the community.

Advertisement

He declined to say whether the incident was an act of domestic violence, but said investigators are trying to determine the woman's motive and how she got into the building. He said the shooting occurred in a "courtyard area."

Most tech companies, including YouTube, require visitors to check in with security before entering their facilities.

Officials with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center said the hospital had taken in three patients, two women and one man. 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. None of them has been in surgery.

The fourth person suffered an ankle injury while fleeing.

"We're doing everything we can to support them and their families at this time," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a letter to employees.

Pichai said the shooting came as employees were having lunch and police, along with the company's security team, worked to evacuate the buildings.

"The best information we have is that the situation is contained," he said. "I know a lot of you are in shock right now. Over the coming days, we will continue to provide support to help everyone in our Google family heal from this unimaginable tragedy."

In a tweet, President Trump offered his "thoughts and prayers" to everyone involved in the incident Tuesday afternoon.

Several YouTube employees sent tweets Tuesday afternoon, saying people were racing out of the company's Cherry Avenue offices shortly after 1 p.m.

Witnesses in the area said they saw dozens of firefighters and police officers descending on the area. Other witnesses said they saw police holding rifles and other weapons.

The first reports of a shooting came in to San Mateo County dispatchers before 1 p.m., according to recorded traffic posted online by Broadcastify.com.

"Shooter. Another party said they spotted someone with a gun. Suspect came from the back patio," the dispatcher said, according to scanner traffic posted online. "Address is 901 Cherry Avenue. … Again we have a report of a subject with a gun, they heard seven or eight shots being fired. This would be from the YouTube building."

As the reports began to flood dispatchers, a sergeant was heard on the radio taking the call. He told other officers responding or monitoring the situation "to wear their gear."

Police scanner audio during reports of an active shooter at YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, Calif.

Video from the scene showed people holding their hands over their heads as they left the building, which is located in a suburb south of San Francisco. An employee told the Los Angeles Times that three YouTube buildings — 900, 901 and 1000 Cherry Avenue — had been placed on lockdown.

Producers from YouTube tweeted that they believed there was an active shooter on the company's campus. Some said they heard so many people running that they believed an earthquake had struck. Others described a gruesome scene.

"I looked down and saw blood drips on the floor and stairs," Todd Sherman, a YouTube producer, wrote on Twitter. "Peaked around for threats and then we headed downstairs and out the front."

Lucacio Simoes, 40, an Uber driver from San Bruno, learned about the shooting from a friend's text message while he was having lunch at the nearby Tanforan shopping center. Simoes said he drove his Ford Explorer toward YouTube headquarters to see if he could help.

"There were people running down the street," he said.

Simoes said he turned off the Uber app and started to pick up people he passed on the street.

Advertisement

"I just opened the door and asked if they needed help. I was getting people away from YouTube. At one point I had seven people in the car. I picked up one man from Sneath Lane and when he got in the car he just started crying. He was in shock."

Simoes said he performed at least six such rides Tuesday afternoon.

Michelle Tam, a hostess at the Hashes & Brews restaurant about a block away from the company's headquarters, said a swarm of police and fire vehicles drove into the area around 12:45 p.m.

"We see lots cops and firefighters," Tam said. "We can't see any people. It's just a lot of trucks along the street at the moment."

Tam said three YouTube employees came into the restaurant appearing visibly shaken.

"They came in from a back door," she said. "They sat down at a table. They were in a daze. One guy, there was a little blood on his head."

One employee had a partial fragment of a bullet in her shoe, Tam said.

At another nearby business, roughly two dozen customers barricaded themselves inside Nueve restaurant around 1 p.m., when authorities told them to "stay far away from YouTube," bartender Carlos Gutierrez told a reporter over the phone.

"Is this really happening, or is it a false alarm?" Gutierrez wondered aloud as he and others huddled near the bar.

Times staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian, Joseph Serna and Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

UPDATES:

10:40 p.m.: This article was updated with information from San Bruno police, the suspected shooter's father and Mountain View police.

9:15 p.m.: This article was updated to mention a YouTube page and other social media accounts that had been deactivated.

9:05 p.m.: This article was updated to include information about a website investigators are studying.

8:25 p.m.: This article was updated with the name of the alleged shooter.

5:30 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the San Bruno police chief.

4:45 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

4:15 p.m.: This article was updated with information from law enforcement sources.

4 p.m.: This article was updated with information from Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

3:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from President Trump and a witness.

2:40 p.m.: This article was updated with information from San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini.

2:10 p.m.: This article was updated with details from police radio calls.

1:50 p.m.: This article was updated to say that law enforcement sources described the shooter as a woman.

1:35 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from the scene.

This article was originally published at 1:20 p.m.

Advertisement
Advertisement