Nasim Aghdam was a 38-year-old woman who was angry at YouTube and opened fire at the video-sharing website’s headquarters in San Bruno, California, on Tuesday, April 3.
Police say that Aghdam wounded three people before fatally shooting herself. Police recovered a Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun at the scene. The gun was registered to Aghdam, who police say went to a shooting range before heading to YouTube.
According to her website and various social media posts, Aghdam believed that YouTube was discriminating against her videos, causing her to lose money and views. Police revealed her identity on Tuesday night.
Aghdam, who was born in Iran and lived in southern California, was active on YouTube and often ranted about the company in videos on her channels, on Instagram, and on her own website. In a press conference on April 3, San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said that Aghdam’s motive appeared to be her frustration with YouTube.
Aghdam identified as Persian and often posted videos and other blog-like messages in English, Turkish, and Farsi, the official language of Iran. She had various online aliases including Nasim(e) Sabz and Nasim VeganBreeze. Original reports listed Aghdam as being 39, but public records indicate that she was 38 and would have turned 39 on April 5, two days after the shooting.
The victims of the shooting, who remain hospitalized, have not yet been identified. Police initially said the male victim was targeted and law enforcement sources told multiple news outlets that the incident was a domestic violence situation, with the woman targeting her boyfriend. That does not appear to be the case at this time in the investigation.
“The San Bruno Police Department is investigating a motive for this shooting. At this
time there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that
individuals were specifically targeted,” police said in a press release. “Anyone with any information related to this crime is urged to contact the San Bruno Police Department at 650-616-7100 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can be left anonymously.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Aghdam Ranted That YouTube Was Filtering Her Videos to ‘Reduce Views,’ Suppress Her Opinions & Discourage Her From Making Videos, Saying ‘There’s No Free Speech in Real World!’
Authorities don’t believe that Nasim Aghdam, 38, had any direct connection to YouTube, but she did have a YouTube channel. She often posted videos that included “rants” against the company.
“Nasim the Persian Azeri female vegan bodybuilder, also animal rights activist promoting healthy and humane living. Nasim produced and launched the first Persian TV commercial and music video (Do You Dare) regarding animal rights and veganism through international Iranian satellite Television in 2010,” read the “About” section on her YouTube channel.
Her YouTube channel has been deleted. She had more than 5,000 subscribers, and her videos had been viewed more than one million times.
On her website, Aghdam posted a screenshot of an email that she sent to YouTube, complaining about discrimination. In the email, Aghdam writes that she’d been a YouTube user since 2010. The subject of the email reads, “Discrimination On YouTube.”
You can see that photo below.
The video below is of Aghdam talking about YouTube.
“I’m being discriminated and filtered on YouTube and I’m not the only one. So recently they also attacked my Persian channel … And if you go and check my videos, you will see my new videos hardly get views and my old videos that used to get many views stopped getting views. This is because I am getting filtered,” she says in the video. “They age restricted my ab workout video. A video that has nothing bad in it. Nothing sexual. Why did they do that? Because it got famous and was getting many views, so they age-restricted that video to keep it from getting views. I contacted support team and team and they all said the same thing, ‘there are some inappropriate things in your videos.”
She said, “Videos of singers like Nikki Minaj, Miley and others have sexual things so inappropriate for children to watch, don’t get age restricted, but my videos … gets age-restricted. It is what they are doing to vegan activists and many other people who are trying to promote healthy, smart and humane living. People like me are not good for big businesses, like for animal business, for medicine business and for many other businesses. That’s why they are discriminating and censoring us.”
In another video, she talked about how to be successful on YouTube, mocking the company:
“How to grow on YouTube,” she says to the camera. “Make stupid videos. The more stupid stupid videos you make, the more successful you will be. Never talk about moral and humane issues. Never talk about your own beliefs. Otherwise you will be discriminated and censored. Growing on YouTube is not in your hands. It all depends who is controlling your channel. If she or he likes your videos, then they will let your videos get views.”
She then says, “otherwise,” and points to text that reads, “Your videos will be merely relegated.”
In another video, she said about YouTube, “They want you to be their sex slaves not think outside the box they designed for you! Your knowledge is their enemy.”
Aghdam also ranted about YouTube on her website. She believed that the company “filtered her channels” to keep her from getting views.
“This video got age restricted after new close-minded YouTube employees, got control of
my Farsi YouTube channel last year 2016 & began filtering my videos to reduce views & suppress & discaurage (sic) me from making videos!” Aghdam wrote on her website.
“There is no free speech in real world & you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system. Videos of targeted users are filtered & merely relegated, so that people can hardly see their videos! There is no equal growth opportunity on YouTube or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!” read another blurb on her website.
She also posted on Instagram about her issues with YouTube on March 18.
“All my youtube channels got filtered by youtube so my videos hardly get views and it is called ‘merely relegation.’ This is also happening to many other channels on youtube. This is the peaceful tactic used on the internet to censor and suppress people who speak the truth and are not good for the financial, political … gains of the system and big businesses,” she wrote. “I recently got filtered on instagram too and maybe its related to youtube and youtube staff asked instagram to filter me here too!!?”
Her videos included fitness programs, comedy routines and parody songs, like this one, a parody of Taylor Swift:
She also posted several videos on Daily Motion, including a Justin Bieber parody:
In 2016, Aghdam was the subject of another YouTube video, the Turkish user appearing to mock her. You can see that video, which received more than 800,000 views, here.
You can see more videos from her now-deleted YouTube channel at the link below:
2. Her Father Said She Went Missing for ‘Several Days’ & That She ‘Hated’ YouTube
Aghdam’s father, Ismail Aghdam, spoke with Mercury News via telephone after Tuesday’s shooting. He told the outlet that he phoned police after Aghdam had been missing for two days. On Tuesday, April 3, around 2 a.m. Pacific time, Mountain View police located Aghdam, who had been “sleeping in her car,” and added that she was okay.
Ismail Aghdam told police that his daughter, whose full name is Nasim Najafi Aghdam, may have been going to YouTube “because she ‘hated’ the company. He explained to Mercury News that his daughter was upset because YouTube had stopped paying her for her posts.
Ismail Aghdam also told the outlet that he was unaware that his daughter owned a gun, but said she might have bought one recently.
Mountain View Police told the Mercury News that they found her asleep in a parking lot.
“Our officers made contact with the woman after the license plate of her vehicle matched that of a missing person out of Southern California,” Mountain View Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told the newspaper. “The woman confirmed her identity to us and answered subsequent questions. At the conclusion of our discussion, her family was notified that she had been located.”
Mountain View Police told NBC News, “According to our report, at no point in our contact with the woman did she indicate she was a threat to herself or others.”
The Mountain View Police Department has released a statement about the interaction with Aghdam following the concerning call they received from her family. You can read it, in part, below. You can read it in full here.
“The woman, identified as 38-year-old Manifee resident Nasim Aghdam, positively identified herself to us and told us during our contact with her that she had decided to leave her family’s home a few days prior due to family issues. She stated she had come to the area to stay with family and while she was currently living out of her vehicle, she was in the process of looking for a job. During our contact with her, she was asked a series of questions including, but not limited to, if she was a danger to herself or others. At no point during our roughly 20 minute interaction with her did she mention anything about YouTube, if she was upset with them, or that she had planned to harm herself or others. Throughout our entire interaction with her, she was calm and cooperative.”
“At the conclusion of our interaction with her, she in no way met any reason for us to speak with her further or possibly detain her. A short time later, we phoned her family to let them know she had been located. During that call, we spoke with both the woman’s father and her brother. The father confirmed to us that the family had been having issues at home, but did not act in any way concerned about why his daughter had left. At no point during that conversation did either Aghdam’s father or brother make any statements regarding the woman’s potential threat to, or a possible attack on, the YouTube campus. Also, there was no indication from either Aghdam or her family that she may have been in possession of any weapons. “
According to Buzzfile, Mr. Aghdam owns an electrical contracting company, located in San Diego. Public records show that Nasim Aghdam lived with her family in Menifee, California, in Riverside County. The family previously lived in San Diego and Escondido. Nasim Aghdam’s brother, Shahran Aghdam, told Mercury News that the family moved to the United States from Iran in 1996.
3. She Posted Online in English, Farsi, the Official Language of Iran, & Turkish, While She Identified as Being Part of the Baha’i Faith
Aghdam’s online presence consisted of posts, photos, and videos in English and in Farsi, the official language of Iran. She also had a channel with videos in Turkish. She referred to herself as “Persian.”
Aghdam posted several videos on Instagram in which she asked her followers about things like freedom of speech.
“When it comes to freedom of speech do you think Iran is better than the USA or the USA is better than Iran?” Aghdam said in an Instagram video posted on March 25.
“Be aware! Dictatorship exists in all countries but with different tactics! They only care for
personal short term profits & do anything to reach their goals even by fooling simple-minded people, hiding the truth, manipulating science & everything, putting public mental & physical health at risk, abusing non-human animals, polluting environment, destroying family values, promoting materialism & sexual degeneration in the name of freedom,….. & turning people into programmed robots! ‘Make the lie big, Make it simple, Keep saying it, And eventually they will believe it’ Adolf Hitler,” she wrote on her website.
In an article posted under one of Aghdam’s aliases, she revealed that she identified as Baha’i. Using the name Nasime Sabz, Aghdam mentioned her spiritual beliefs and also mentioned that Baha’i followers are “frequently persecuted in Iran.”
Below is a description of Baha’i, by way of the organization’s website.
“The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith inspire individuals and communities as they work to improve their own lives and contribute to the advancement of civilization. Bahá’í beliefs address such essential themes as the oneness of God and religion, the oneness of humanity and freedom from prejudice, the inherent nobility of the human being, the progressive revelation of religious truth, the development of spiritual qualities, the integration of worship and service, the fundamental equality of the sexes, the harmony between religion and science, the centrality of justice to all human endeavors, the importance of education, and the dynamics of the relationships that are to bind together individuals, communities, and institutions as humanity advances towards its collective maturity.”
On one of her websites, she criticized the Middle Eastern practice of animal sacrifices.
“Backyard slaughters are also common among Middle Easterns (sic) & Muslims even Bahai’s who believe in animal sacrifice & think animal blood will bring joy to their lives,” she wrote. “In western countries they do it in their backyards or even bathtubs.”
4. She Was a Vegan Bodybuilder, an Animal Rights Activist & Took Part in PETA-Led Protests
Aghdam called herself a vegan bodybuilder. She often shared workout videos on YouTube.
“From a very young age I used to care about the animals and their welfare, and think about the source of meat and where it came from and I knew that the fried chicken on my dinner plate once was a beautiful yellow chick! I was surprised to learn how people were so indifferent toward humanitarian issues; why harming and killing innocent animals were so normal to them; why they followed the ancient traditions no matter what they were; why they looked at meat only as delicious food and not look at the source of this product. From that age I started opposing eating meat and wearing animal skin, and what my family and other people said in order to discourage me had no effect on me because I had faith that my belief was true and that meat is not a food of compassion and kindness,” she told Vegan Idea World.
She also talked in that interview about why she became a Vegan:
“I was born in Iran, which is a meat-loving country like all other countries. From a very young age I used to care about the animals and their welfare, and think about the source of meat and where it came from and I knew that the fried chicken on my dinner plate once was a beautiful yellow chick! I was surprised to learn how people were so indifferent toward humanitarian issues; why harming and killing innocent animals were so normal to them; why they followed the ancient traditions no matter what they were; why they looked at meat only as delicious food and not look at the source of this product. From that age I started opposing eating meat and wearing animal skin, and what my family and other people said in order to discourage me had no effect on me because I had faith that my belief was true and that meat is not a food of compassion and kindness.”
That article has since been deleted, but Aghdam’s interview was posted by a site called Peaceful Dumpling.
Aghdam’s social media pages were filled with graphic images of animals being mistreated. Several of the posts on her “vegan” page were censored by Instagram because of the disturbing content.
In 2009, Aghdam was part of a protest at Camp Pendleton. She joined about two dozen activists who protested “the use of pigs in ‘live tissue’ training for Marines and sailors learning how to treat battlefield casualties,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“For me animal rights equals human rights. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean we should take advantage of them,” Aghdam told the outlet.
In 2011, she started a non-profit company called Peace Thunder. It is unknown if Aghdam ever got the company off the ground, as it is currently listed as “dissolved” by the California business register. It appears as though Peace Thunder was intended to be an animal rights foundation of sorts. A web archive of the website http://www.peacethunder.com is filled with posts about animals and slaughter houses.
“I chose ‘Peace Thunder’ because veganism is not just a diet, it’s a belief that affects all stages of life such as relationship with animals, people, nature and daily choices. Abusing and killing any sentient being is wrong no matter if that sentient being is a human or a dog or a sheep. A vegan lifestyle opposes cruelty to animals and also environmental pollution,” she said in that same interview with Vegan Idea World. “Livestock industry produces lots of harmful chemicals and waste that cause serious damage to the nature, plants and animals, including humans. Therefore adopting a vegan diet means adopting a peaceful lifestyle that harms no animals and does not pollute our planet.”
5. Police Initially Thought That the Injured Male Was an Intended Target & Do Not Believe This Was an Act of Terrorism
Police believe that Aghdam’s motive was directly related to her anger with YouTube. Initial reports, including by NBC News, indicated that the motive behind the shooting appeared to be a “domestic-related dispute” and not terror-related “in any way,” police now say, “there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted.”
San Bruno police have confirmed that four people were taken to nearby hospitals and treated for injuries. Three of them had been shot and one had a broken ankle. The shooter used a 9mm handgun, police said.
“We did encounter one victim with an apparent gunshot wound, towards the front of the business as we arrived. Several minutes later, while conducting a search of the premises, officers located a second individual with a gunshot wound, that [may have been] self inflicted. We are still working on confirming that. Two additional victims were located several minutes later at an adjacent business. The extent of all the injuries of our victims, are unknown right now. They were all transported for emergency medical care… We have four victims who have all been transported for gunshot-related [injuries],” San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said during a press conference.
“We received three patients,” Brent Andrew from San Francisco General Hospital told the media. A 36-year-old male is listed in critical condition at this time. A female victim is listed in serious condition and a third victim, another female, is said to be in fair condition.
The first calls to 9-1-1 came in at 12:46 p.m. local time, according to San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini. Officers arrived on the scene at 12:48 p.m., and “immediately began a search for a possible shooter or suspect,” Barberini said during a press conference.
Several people in the area began posting about hearing gunshots and seeing people run out of the YouTube building, located on Cherry Avenue.
YouTube product manager Todd Sherman posted the following on Twitter:
“We were sitting in a meeting and then we heard people running because it was rumbling the floor. First thought was earthquake. After [exiting] 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. Shit. 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 around for threats and then we headed downstairs and out the front.”
YouTube employee Zack Vorhies was in the area at the time of the shooting, and spoke with MSNBC about what he witnessed.
“I was at my desk, working, when the fire alarm went off … we exited the back of the building. … I had my electric skateboard. I put the skateboard on the ground and I started going down the hill toward the courtyard. I heard some yelling going on and when I arrived near the courtyard, I heard somebody yelling, ‘Do you want to shoot me?’ I looked to my left, which was his right, and I saw somebody lying on their back on the concrete with what appeared to be a gunshot wound through the stomach. And I say that because there was a red splotch on his shirt, and he wasn’t moving,” Vorhies explained.
He added that the person who yelled “Do you want to shoot me?” was a male. “I think there might have been some verbal argument going on,” he said.