On Tuesday, April 3, around 12:45 in the afternoon Pacific Time, an active shooter opened fire at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California. Terrified employees could be seen evacuating the premises as police rushed to the large, 200,000 square-foot YouTube HQ complex in the San Francisco suburb, and the victims of the shooting were quickly rushed to two nearby medical facilities, San Francisco General Hospital and Stanford University Medical Center.
Late Tuesday night, law enforcement was successfully able to identify the suspect as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 38, a resident of Riverside County, California living with her grandmother. According to reports, Aghdam entered through an exterior parking garage before approaching an outdoor patio on the premises and opening fire. She used a 9mm Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol, with which witnesses say she fired a total of between 15 and 20 shots. Authorities found Aghdam dead at the scene with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Aghdam, born in Urmia, Iran, had immigrated to the United States in 1996 with her family. She was a vocal vegan, animal activist, fitness enthusiast, and a registered follower of the Baha’i faith. She took frequently to social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, to post her content, much of which went viral in her home country. Recently, Aghdam had been criticizing YouTube on her website, citing several complaints – she voiced her discontent with YouTube’s censorship policy, claiming that it had filtered and suppressed much of her content to prevent her from getting views, and she also made clear her anger with YouTube’s demonetization of many of her videos.
Authorities found that Aghdam had legally purchased the 9mm pistol she used to carry out the shooting from a gun dealer in San Diego on January 16. This purchase was made two days after the YouTube policy change that left many of Aghdam’s videos ineligible for monetization. Additionally, Aghdam visited a gun range the day before the shooting.
On March 31, Aghdam’s family reported her as missing; the night before the shooting, police in Mountain View, California, about 25 miles south of San Bruno, found her asleep in her car in the parking lot of a Walmart store. Her father and brother, upon being informed of her whereabouts and proximity to YouTube headquarters, claimed they notified authorities of Aghdam’s deeply rooted hatred of YouTube and cautioned them that she may be traveling to their offices, even saying explicitly that “she might do something.”
The San Bruno police chief claimed that the communication and relaying of this information between police departments was unclear, and still under investigation.
In response to the incident, several figures took to social media: President Trump tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved. Thank you to our phenomenal Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders that are currently on the scene.” Furthermore, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki tweeted, “There are no words to describe how horrible it was to have an active shooter @YouTube [sic] today. 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.” Sundar Pichai, CEO of YouTube’s parent company, Google, stated “Over the coming days, we will continue to provide support to help everyone in our Google family heal from this unimaginable tragedy.”