Yesterday, a shooter walked into YouTube’s headquarters in California and began firing at employees, leaving three people injured with gunshot wounds. A picture of the tragedy, and the suspect behind it, is now emerging. Here are the facts that have come to light so far.
Around lunchtime on Tuesday, April 3rd, employees at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California, began reporting gunshots fired in the building. Several employees called 911, and others tweeted about the shooting, including Vadim Lavrusik, whose message was widely cited in early reports.
A San Bruno police report says that officers arrived on site a few minutes after receiving calls about the shooting. YouTube employees were evacuating the building, and police encountered one person with an apparent gunshot wound, while two others, also wounded, had already left the campus. These three people were taken to the hospital, and as of yesterday, one was listed in fair condition, another in serious condition, and a third in critical condition. A fourth person was treated for a twisted ankle, possibly sustained while escaping the building.
Inside the building, police found a deceased woman who has been identified as Nasim Aghdam, a 39-year-old woman from San Diego who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
At a Wednesday press conference, San Bruno police chief Ed Barberini said that Aghdam had entered YouTube’s headquarters through a parking garage and gotten access to a courtyard, where she started shooting.
The shooter’s motive
Early reports suggested that the attack had been committed by a woman attempting to shoot her boyfriend. San Bruno police later said they had no evidence that the shooter knew any of her victims or was targeting a specific person. There was, however, evidence that Aghdam had a long-running grudge against YouTube. In the Wednesday press conference, Barberini said that anger against YouTube’s policies was being considered the motive for the shooting.
Aghdam’s father Ismail Aghdam said he’d reported her missing before the shooting and told police that she might be headed to YouTube, a company she “hated.” He told The Mercury News that his daughter had complained to the family about YouTube “censoring” and demonetizing her videos. Barberini said that she had been reported as missing since March 31st. Police found Aghdam sleeping in her car in Mountain View, California, the night before the shooting.
Her brother Shahran Aghdam said “she was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life.” He also said that he warned police she might “do something” at the company headquarters, after hearing that she’d driven to Mountain View and discovering that YouTube’s campus was located there.
Mountain View’s police department later issued a statement denying reports that the family had warned them about Aghdam. According to the statement, police had run the license plate on Aghdam’s car, found the missing persons report, and questioned her for roughly 20 minutes. She allegedly told them she had left home due to family problems and was looking for a job. The department claims her father and brother never mentioned a potential threat to YouTube, although they said Youtube had “done something to her videos” that upset her. The police say her father “did not seem concerned” that she was in Mountain View.
According to Barberini, Aghdam went to a gun range on the morning of the shooting, and used a gun registered under her own name in the attack.
Aghdam regularly posted videos about veganism and animal rights and claimed that YouTube was deliberately filtering and demonetizing her work to stop it from getting views. “There is no free speech in real world [and] you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system,” she wrote on a personal website. “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want [it] to!!!!!”
This is an extreme version of a claim that’s been made by many YouTubers. Users across the political spectrum have alleged that YouTube pulled ads on videos that didn’t violate its terms for monetization, or filtered videos to make them harder to find. A judge recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by conservative organization PragerU, which said that YouTube had discriminated against its videos. And creators protested a January decision to only monetize channels with a certain number of subscribers and viewing hours, limiting the options for smaller or newer channels. Obviously, however, this is all peaceful criticism of the site — not anything equivalent to Aghdam’s shooting.
Hoaxes and conspiracies
Misinformation began spreading immediately after the shooting. Soon after Lavrusik reported himself safe on Twitter, a hoaxer hacked his account and began posting fake messages, including one that asked readers to “find his friend” with a picture of the popular YouTuber Keemstar. Lavrusik has since recovered his account.
Hoaxers also began circulating fake claims that are made after many shootings, including accusations that comedian Sam Hyde was the shooter. They made a number of other false accusations against various YouTubers, as well as BuzzFeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko, who had been debunking the hoaxes.
Like most shootings, this attack has predictably drawn claims that it was a “false flag” operation designed to demonize gun owners. An early report said the shooter was wearing a headscarf, which led to some online speculation — including a tweet from Gateway Pundit reporter Lucian Wintrich — that she might be Muslim. There’s no evidence of this so far.
Notably, we haven’t seen a ton of hoax and conspiracy material getting promoted by platforms like Facebook and Google search, although one video made it into Facebook’s search results. This could obviously change, but it’s still a significant contrast to what happened after February’s shooting in Parkland — when, among other things, a video claiming students were “crisis actors” trended on YouTube.
Silicon Valley and the YouTube community responds
In the wake of the attack, major tech companies and executives expressed their condolences to the victims, including YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
There are no words to describe how horrible it was to have an active shooter @YouTube 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.
— Susan Wojcicki (@SusanWojcicki) April 4, 2018
The Google corporate Twitter account shared a note from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
— Google Communications (@Google_Comms) April 3, 2018
Pichai also acknowledged the tragedy on his personal account.
There are no words to describe the tragedy that occurred today. @SusanWojcicki & I are focused on supporting our employees & the @YouTube community through this difficult time together. Thank you to the police & first responders for their efforts, and to all for msgs of support.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) April 3, 2018
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shared his condolences and acknowledged that the platform was being used to share hoaxes. Minutes after the shooting, a hacker took over the Twitter account of a YouTube manager to spread disinformation.
We’re also aware of the misinformation being spread on Twitter. We’re tracking, learning, and taking action. We‘re working diligently on product solutions to help. https://t.co/V8vmxgFkmR
— jack (@jack) April 3, 2018
The executive chairman of Twitter, Omid Kordestani also shared his thoughts.
— Omid Kordestani (@omidkordestani) April 3, 2018
As did Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Horrible and truly tragic day for YouTube and Google. We are wishing all our very best for the injured and all those affected.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 3, 2018
And Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
From everyone at Apple, we send our sympathy and support to the team at YouTube and Google, especially the victims and their families.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 3, 2018
Followed by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft.
On behalf of all of Microsoft, our hearts are with everyone at YouTube and Google today and all those affected. https://t.co/dijMxGXGpD
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) April 4, 2018
The YouTube community also responded to the shooting, with some of the platform’s biggest and most visible creators expressing their shock.
Casey Neistat posted a live news feed from YouTube’s headquarters.
anxious. concerned. feel sick. hoping for the best for everyone effected. here's a live news feed from San Bruno – https://t.co/G08h464WV6
— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) April 3, 2018
Lilly Singh retweeted Wojcicki’s tweet.
Thinking of all of you. Sending positive energy x ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ https://t.co/AMJ6vZiGdN
— Lilly Singh (@IISuperwomanII) April 4, 2018
And Philip DeFranco made a connection between the attack and the shooter’s videos in which she accused the platform of suppressing her videos.
The YouTube HQ shooter has been identified (won’t name or show face bc fuck her).
It appears that she was angry at YouTube. She claimed her videos were being unjustly age-restricted and accused YouTube of suppressing her videos.
I’m disgusted, furious, and heartbroken.
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) April 4, 2018
Jake Paul published a reaction video shortly after the shooting in which he says he’s “devastated, I’m pissed off, I’m angry, I’m confused.”
As the story develops, we will continue to update this page with verified information about the shooting.