The night before Nasim Aghdam opened fire in a courtyard at YouTube’s headquarters Tuesday afternoon, Mountain View police found the San Diego woman sleeping in her car.
She had been reported missing by her family in Southern California, and her father Ismail Aghdam told police she might be going to YouTube because she “hated” the company. Police called the family at 2 a.m. Tuesday to say she’d been found and that everything was “under control,” her father said.
But hours later, his daughter was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot after shooting three people and causing an afternoon of terror at YouTube’s headquarters.
In an interview Tuesday night with the Bay Area News Group, Ismail Aghdam said his 38-year-old daughter told her family a couple of weeks ago that YouTube had been censoring her videos and stopped paying her for her content. “She was angry,” he said in an interview from his Riverside County home.
It wasn’t clear Tuesday night what Mountain View police knew about her history with YouTube.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that officers had found a woman of the same name asleep in a vehicle early Tuesday morning 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,” said Mountain View Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson.
“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 said his daughter was a vegan activist and animal lover. As a youngster, she would not even kill ants that invaded the family home, instead using paper to remove them to the back yard, he said. State records show she had once established a charity called Peace Thunder Inc., to “educate people about animal cruelty, environmental pollution” and other causes.
“For me, animal rights equal human rights,” Aghdam told the San Diego Union-Tribune at a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest in 2009 outside Camp Pendleton.
She told her family that YouTube had stopped paying her for the content she posted to the site, Ismail Aghdam said. YouTubers can receive payment for advertisements accompanying their videos, but the company “de-monetizes” some channels for various reasons, meaning ads don’t run with them.
Aghdam was prolific on social media, posting videos and photos on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Her YouTube channel included strange workout video clips, graphic animal abuse videos and vegan cooking tutorials. But recent posts show evidence of her growing frustration.
Aghdam’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages were all taken down late Tuesday, but not before reporters from this news organization were able to view much of the material.
On a March 18 Instagram post, she railed at YouTube: “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. I recently got filtered on instagram too and maybe its related to youtube and youtube staff asked instagram to filter me here too!!?”
On Jan. 28, Aghdam recorded a video of herself lamenting her perceived “discrimination” by YouTube, particularly railing on how YouTube determined her ab workout video was too racy and, therefore, filtered it.
“I’m being discriminated and filtered on YouTube and I’m not the only one,” the video begins, as Aghdam, wearing a black, white and orange long-sleeved shirt and short jet black hair stands in front of a background of green and white stars. “They age restricted my ab workout video. A video that has nothing bad in it. Nothing sexual.”
On one of her many websites, she claims to have at least four YouTube channels, one in English, and then others in Farsi and Turkish.
A law enforcement source on Tuesday afternoon said investigators were looking into whether she may have been targeting a boyfriend, however San Bruno Police late Tuesday night confirmed she was the attacker but said investigators were trying to determine her motive.
“At this time there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted,” the department said in a press release.
In the interview with this news organization, her father said the family knew nothing about Nasim owning a gun. “Maybe she bought one” recently, he said.
Nasim’s brother, Shahran Aghdam, spoke to reporters from the foyer of the family’s home in Menifee in Riverside County on Tuesday night. His mother could be heard crying in the home and his father asked one reporter about the condition of the victims.
The family came to California from Iran in 1996, Shahran said. He said Nasim had been living recently with her grandmother in San Diego. “She was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life,” he said.
He said she was missing since Saturday and not answering her cell phone. When he learned his sister was in Mountain View, he Googled the city and found out it was near YouTube headquarters.
He said he called the Mountain View police, who found her and reported back that she was fine, and they would keep an eye on her.
Wednesday would have been Nasim’s 38th birthday. He said she never hurt anyone until today, and has no idea where she may have gotten a gun. “She chose the day to die the day she came,” he said.
Southern California News Group staff writers Stephanie Schulte and Richard De Atley contributed to this report.