YouTube shooter's bizarre videos key to suspected motive
By ELLIOT SPAGAT and SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
MENIFEE, Calif. (AP) — The woman who shot three people at YouTube’s headquarters was prolific at producing videos and posting them online, many of them bizarre, such as a clip in which she removes a revealing purple dress to expose fake breasts with the message, “Don’t Trust Your Eyes.”
In others, Nasim Aghdam exercises, promotes animal rights and explains the vegan diet, often in elaborate costumes or carrying a rabbit.
The videos have become central to the motive authorities have settled on for the shooting: Aghdam’s anger with the policies of YouTube — the world’s biggest online video website.
Nasim Aghdam, who was in her late 30s, posted the videos under the online name Nasime Sabz, and a website in that name decried YouTube’s policies, saying the company was trying to “suppress” content creators.
“Youtube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!” one of the messages said. “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!”
People who post on YouTube can receive money from advertisements that accompany their videos, but the company “de-monetizes” some channels for reasons including inappropriate material or having fewer than 1,000 subscribers.
YouTube had no comment about any actions related to Aghdam’s videos.
Nasim Aghdam also ran a Farsi-language public channel on the messaging app Telegram, which had 6,000 followers. Telegram reportedly has some 40 million users in Iran. In one post she says, “Internet crackdown and filtering is increasing in the West.”
Police who found Nasim Aghdam sleeping in her car early Tuesday in the city of Mountain View about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from YouTube headquarters said she was calm and said nothing about being angry with YouTube or having any plans to harm others or herself.
“It was a very normal conversation. There was nothing in her behavior that suggested anything unusual,” said Mountain View Police Chief Max Bosel.
Later that day, Aghdam went to a gun range before walking through a parking garage into a courtyard at YouTube’s campus south of San Francisco, where she opened fire with a handgun and wounded three people, police said. She then killed herself.
Two women wounded in the shooting were released Wednesday from a San Francisco hospital. The third victim, a 36-year-old man, was upgraded from critical to serious condition.
The suspect’s father, Ismail Aghdam, told the Bay Area News Group he warned police the day before the attack that his daughter was upset with how YouTube handled her videos and might be planning to go to its offices.
Police in Mountain View said they spoke to Ismail Aghdam twice after contacting the family to report finding his daughter and that he never told them she could become violent or pose a threat to YouTube employees. During her 20-minute interview with officers, Nasim Aghdam said she was having family problems and had left her home, police said.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday searched two homes where Nasim Aghdam had lived — one in Menifee, which is southeast of Los Angeles, and another in 4S Ranch, north of San Diego.
Nasim Aghdam referenced a since-deactivated website, PeaceThunder, in a 2014 interview promoting veganism. The state attorney general’s website shows a charity group named PeaceThunder affiliated with Nasim Aghdan was dissolved at her request in 2011. She gave no reason but said she was its only member and the group had no assets.
John Rundell, who lives next door to the family in Menifee, said the parents, son and daughter moved from San Diego about five years ago, but he hadn’t seen Nasim Aghdam in months.
The entire family was “very, very friendly,” according to Rundell, who spoke most often with the father, an electrical contractor. Topics of conversations included Persian cooking.
“They were just perfect neighbors,” Rundell said. “If I had to pick neighbors, I’d have them all around.”
Nasim Aghdam painted the house after the family moved in and Rundell said he gave her his own paint to finish the job. She once told Rundell that her pet rabbit was unhappy and asked where he got his.
The family turned away reporters outside the family home in Menifee Wednesday. A woman named Leila who identified herself as an aunt said Nasim Aghdam was a “really good person” and had no history of mental illness. She did not give her last name.
The family later distributed a statement saying they were “in absolute shock and can’t make sense of what has happened.”
“Although no words can describe our deep pain for this tragedy, our family would like to express their utmost regret, sorrow for what has happened to innocent victims,” the statement read.
Nasim Aghdam walked onto the YouTube property through a parking garage and it’s not clear whether she encountered any security.
The company said Wednesday it will increase security at its headquarters and offices around the world.
Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Ryan Nakashima in San Bruno, Calif. and Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.