A screen grab image captured from Nasim Najafi Aghdam's YouTube page. The page has since been taken down. (YouTube)
On Tuesday afternoon, a woman shot and wounded three people before fatally shooting herself at YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno.
The suspect, 39-year-old Nasim Najafi Aghdam, resided in the Riverside County city of Menifee.
To earn income she created videos for a number of websites, including YouTube. On Monday, April 2 -- the day before the shooting -- Aghdam's family filed a missing persons report. They said she hadn't answered her phone in a few days, which was out of the ordinary.
Tuesday, April 3, 1:40 a.m.
At about 1:40 a.m., Mountain View police found Aghdam in a parking lot, sleeping in her car.
Police questioned Aghdam for 20 minutes and during that time, according to officers, she was calm and cooperative. She stated that she had left home because of issues with her family.
After talking with her, police officers notified the Aghdam family that they had located her, and the family, according to authorities, thanked them for the update.
About an hour later, Aghdam’s father called police back.
He told them his daughter believed YouTube was preventing her from making money from her videos on the platform. Mountain View Police Chief Max Bosel told KQED the father said he called back once he realized how close Mountain View was to YouTube's San Bruno headquarters.
Tuesday, April 3, 12:46 p.m.
Hours later, around lunchtime, San Bruno police received reports of shots fired at the YouTube campus.
Local police say Aghdam parked her car “to the rear of neighboring business and accessed the campus via a parking garage.”
She opened fire at an open courtyard near a dining area.
Police arrived at YouTube headquarters at 12:48 p.m. They discovered three victims with gunshot wounds and Aghdam dead, from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The victims were taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Two patients were released from the hospital Tuesday evening. As of Wednesday afternoon, the remaining patient -- a male in his 30s -- remains in serious condition.
Speculation About Motive
In the hours after the shooting, news organizations inaccurately reported that the suspect might have had a connection, potentially romantic, to one of the victims. San Bruno police say there is no evidence this is true.
The profile of the suspect does not fit the script for perpetrators of other mass shootings in the United States. This is one of the few mass shootings ever committed by a woman. According to research by The Washington Post, only three women have been involved in mass shootings since 1966. Most have been committed by men, a majority of them white.
The gun used in the incident, a 9 mm pistol, was registered to Nasim Aghdam. Before going to YouTube on Tuesday, local police say Aghdam had visited a gun range.
Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have suspended the suspect’s social media profiles. There have been no statements on why her pages were deactivated. Some of Aghdam’s videos are still available because they have been reposted by other users and news outlets.
Aghdam made a variety of videos. Some show her doing exercise routines. In others she is dancing, or talking about animal cruelty, a topic she was passionate about. Sometimes she speaks in English, other times in Turkish or Farsi. According to screen shots on her website, some of her videos had hundreds of thousands of views.
Nasim Aghdam’s personal website has also recently gone down. The site linked to her now-defunct YouTube channels. It also has a page dedicated to videos about cruelty to animals. Much of the rest of her site is dedicated to her grievances with YouTube, which include allegations of censorship and a reduction in advertising revenue.
Aghdam’s website looked like a page you might stumble on in the late '90s. It's all black with fonts of different sizes and colors. In one section highlighted in yellow, Aghdam wrote a long, run-on sentence that ended by condemning YouTube: “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!”
In 2017, Aghdam posted a video to YouTube voicing her concerns over what she sees as censorship of her content. Her family members have corroborated with KQED that she was frustrated with the platform.
Many users of websites like Instagram and Facebook have expressed frustration with how these platforms monetize their content. Facing criticism about the content people post to YouTube, the website has made changes over the years in how it flags and removes videos it deems to be offensive. It has hired more people to evaluate and remove content by hand. But some YouTube contributors have complained that the website is arbitrary in what it deems offensive.
YouTube relies on millions of independent contributors to load content onto its site. These contributors have complained in the past that there is no easy way to communicate grievances to the company about how it handles or monetizes the content that they produce for the site.
Local police have suggested that Aghdam’s complaints against YouTube indicate a possible motive. There are many people who have expressed anger with YouTube, and this is the only time one has come to the tech campus and opened fire.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Aghdam's family filed a missing persons report on April 1. The report was filed April 2.