Officials have identified a 38-year-old woman named Nasim Aghdam as the suspect who opened fire at the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California on Tuesday (Apr. 3), NBC News reports. She was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting multiple people outside YouTube’s HQ.
Aghdam was born in Iran and was a resident of Riverside, California at the time of the shooting. She was active on YouTube and was known for ranting about the company and complaining about its policies in videos on her YouTube channels, on Instagram, and on her own website.
Investigators initially categorized the shooting as a domestic dispute, however, they believe it may have been the result of grievances she had with YouTube.
The shooting appears to have occurred in a courtyard area on YouTube’s campus, San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said. Law enforcement officials said Aghdam approached an outdoor patio and dining area at YouTube’s headquarters and opened fire with a 9mm handgun. Senior officials said they don’t believe the incident is connected to terrorism.
Aghdam—who identified as Persian and frequently posted videos and other posts in both English and Farsi, the official language of Iran—had various online aliases including Nasim Sabz and Nasin VeganBreeze.
Here are some things you need to know about Nasim Aghdam and the YouTube headquarters shooting.
While it was initially believed that Aghdam, 39, was a “disgruntled employee,” authorities don’t believe she had any direct connection to YouTube, however, according to NBC, she did have her own YouTube Channel, where she would often post videos that featured rants against the company.
Her YouTube channel, where she posted under the name “Nasim Wonder1,” has since been deleted. Before its deletion, she boasted more than 5,000 subscribers and her videos had been collectively watched millions of times.
The About page on her channel read:
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.
In addition to her YouTube channel, Aghdam was also known for ranting about the platform on her own website because she believed that the company was purposely filtering her channel to keep her from getting views.
Aghdam wrote on her website, “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!”
Another message on her site read, “There is no free speech in [the] 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!!!!”
She also felt the need to point out the fact that her Instagram followers and interaction were all real, and not purchased like some people with large followers sometimes do.
“My Instagram followers, views, likes are real. On instagram, you can buy pages, buy likes, buy followers,….” she wrote. “But mine are real, without advertising or using programs designed to promote instagram pages.”
Aghdam, who referred to herself as “Persian,” had an online presence that consisted of a number of posts, photos and videos in English and in Farsi, which is the official language of Iran. She posted several videos on Instagram discussing subjects 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 asked her IG followers in a video posted on Sunday, March 25.
She wrote on her website:
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.
In an article posted under one of her aliases, Aghdam revealed that she identified as Baha’i. Using the name Nasime Sabz, Aghdam talked about her spiritual beliefs and also said that Baha’i followers are “frequently persecuted in Iran.”
The Baha’i organization’s website describes the religion as follows:
In thousands upon thousands of locations around the world, 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 endeavours, 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 Aghdam’s websites, she criticized the Middle Eastern practice of animal sacrifices, writing, “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. In western countries they do it in their backyards or even bathtubs.”
According to another website of hers, Aghdam had four YouTube channels: one in Farsi, one in Turkish, one in English and one dedicated to making beaded necklaces.
YouTube has since deactivated all four pages “due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations,” the website said.
Aghdam called herself a “vegan bodybuilder” and frequently shared workout videos on YouTube. She explained to Vegan Idea World in a now deleted interview (which was re-posted by a site called Peaceful Dumpling) her decision to become vegan:
“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 also talked about veganism from the perspective of health and explained how athletes could benefit from a healthy vegetarian diet:
“Vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans because the human body is naturally an herbivore body. The human body is not driven to attack, tear apart, eat or drink [the] blood of a live animal upon laying eyes on her/him. But when someone sees a grape on a vine, her/his mouth waters, walks toward the grape, picks and eats it. By contrast, when you see a dead animal on the side of the road, are you tempted to eat the animal with your bare hands?
“Following a vegan, especially raw vegan, diet benefits our health, animal welfare and survival of the planet earth because animal products are one of the major causes of environmental pollution and destruction. I grew up as a vegetarian but after becoming aware of how inhumanely other animal products such as milk, dairy and eggs are produced and how harmful these products are to [the] human body, I went vegan.
“I have been a vegetarian from a young age and I used to realize how much healthier my body is compared to others. I always had higher energy, was active in sports and had [a] stronger immune system (hardly caught a cold) unlike what most omnivores experienced. After going vegan, I felt much more healthier and lighter, even more energetic. Most common question meat eater athletes ask vegans is how you can get energy from eating plants–and where you get your protein. Meat eaters believe that the only source of protein for building muscle is animal protein. The fact is that animal protein slows down digestion and the body has to get more energy from [the] body to work harder to break down this protein because [the] human body is not designed to digest meat. But plant-based protein is easily absorbed and turned into energy.
“This is one reason why vegans are more energetic. Almost any food has protein in it and foods high in protein are legumes, nuts, seeds and dark leafy green vegetables. Going vegan is so easy and the only important thing that we need to consider is eating a variety of plant-based whole foods and not even worry about taking supplements. I have never needed to worry about measuring my protein, vitamin or calories intake. You will know what, when and how much to eat when you become acquainted with your body.”
She also said that we as humans should “more plant-based whole foods and stay away from processed/filtered foods because the methods of preparation strip a lot of the nutrients.”
Alleged YouTube shooter Nasim Aghdam posted some brutal animal rights videos and promoted vegan lifestyle. Sources familiar with her from Peta say she volunteered briefly on 2-3 protests, but then did not return calls for more actions. #ABC7now pic.twitter.com/SnEvBYvR6W
— Dan Noyes (@dannoyes) April 4, 2018
Aghdam’s social media pages contained lots of graphic images of animals being mistreated. Several of the posts on her “vegan” page were censored by Instagram, as seen below, because of how disturbing the content was. Like her YouTube channels, both her personal and vegan Instagram accounts have been deleted as well. She also had a Facebook page under the name “Nasime Sabz,” which was also deleted.
Nearly a decade ago, back in 2009, Aghdam participated in a protest organized by PETA at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California, where she joined about two dozen other activists who protested the killing of live pigs for military training sessions for Marines and sailors.
News accounts published around the time of the protest said she carried a plastic sword and wore pants spattered with fake blood. “For me animal rights equals human rights. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean we should take advantage of them,” a then-29-year-old Aghdam told The Los Angeles Times.
Ismail Aghdam, Nasim’s father, spoke with Mercury News in a telephone interview following Tuesday’s shooting. He told the outlet that he had called police prior to the shooting and told them that his daughter had been missing for two days.
Mr. Aghdam said he also told police that his daughter may have been headed to YouTube because she “hated” the company because they were censoring her videos and had stopped paying her for them. “She was angry,” he told Mercury News.
On Tuesday, April 3 around 2 a.m. Pacific time (about 11 hours before the shooting), Mountain View police found Aghdam, who they said had been sleeping in her car, but she was OK and everything was “under control,” Aghdam’s father said.
“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 said. “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.”
Ismail Aghdam also told Mercury News that he and his family were unaware that Nasim owned a gun. “Maybe she bought one” recently, he said. Mr. Aghdam asked one reporter about the condition of the victims, Mercury News reported. Nasim’s brother, Shahran Aghdam, also spoke to the media outlet from the family’s home Tuesday night, and his mother could reportedly be heard crying in the background.
Shahran said the family came to California from Iran in 1996, and he said Nasim had been recently living with their grandmother in San Diego. He said, “She was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life.” He also said his sister had been missing since Saturday and wasn’t answering her cell phone.
When Shahran found out she was in Mountain View, he said Googled the city and found it was near YouTube’s headquarters. He said he called the Mountain View police, who found her and reported back to him that she was fine and they would watch her from there. Wednesday would have been Nasim’s 39th birthday, Shahran said.
Police have yet to reveal a motive behind the shooting, and though law enforcement officials initially believed could have been due to a “domestic-related dispute,” MSNBC reported, investigators are now saying, “there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted.” They do, however, believe that the shooting was not terror-related “in any way,” MSNBC reported.
“This woman came to the YouTube workplace with a specific target in mind; someone she knew, someone with whom she wanted to settle a grievance. She shot that person, she may have shot a second person who was with him, intentionally. We’re not sure about the third person,” MSNBC reporter Pete Williams originally said, however, this has not been confirmed.
We are seeing @YouTube employees being brought out with hands up! pic.twitter.com/ZlSMY9FIVm
— Erin (@erinjeanc) April 3, 2018
San Bruno police confirmed that four people were taken to area hospitals and treated for injuries. Three of the victims had been shot and one had a broken ankle. San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said during a press conference:
“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].”
Brent Andrew from San Francisco General Hospital told the media, “We received three patients.” A 36-year-old male was listed in critical condition at this time. A female victim was listed in serious condition and a third victim, another female, was said to be in fair condition.
Officials previously believed the male in critical condition may have been Nasim Aghdam’s intended target, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
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