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Investigation Continues Into Shooting At YouTube Offices


At YouTube's headquarters in Silicon Valley, employees scattered yesterday when gunshots rang out. Authorities say a woman with a handgun shot three people in a campus courtyard before killing herself. The police have said very little about a possible motive but have now named the suspected assailant. Joining us to talk about this is Sam Harnett from member station KQED. He's been covering this story. Hi, Sam.


GREENE: So what are we learning in the aftermath of this shooting?

HARNETT: Well, as you said, the big news is that the San Bruno Police Department has confirmed the identity of the suspect. It's the woman who died in what appeared to be a self-inflicted gun wound. It's a 39-year-old woman named Nasim Aghdam, and police say she's from San Diego in Southern California. Now, law enforcement is saying that, quote, "at this time, there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of the shooting or that the individuals were specifically targeted." But the investigation is ongoing, and there's still a lot of questions about what really happened.

GREENE: OK. So in that statement - I know we're getting very little - but no evidence that individuals were specifically targeted. We don't even know if the organization, YouTube, was specifically targeted, if she was angry at YouTube for some reason.

HARNETT: Well, yeah. We do know that she was angry with YouTube. Aghdam actually created videos for YouTube and other outlets like Instagram and Facebook. She went by a pseudonym, Nasime Sabz. And her videos were of a pretty random assortment. She has some exercise videos where she's shown working out. I mean, others of the video footage she uploaded are kind of hard to describe. She talks the camera directly, and then it'll kind of cut to a music video or some other footage. In some of her videos, she speaks English, in others, she's speaking Farsi or Turkish.

Now, over the last couple of years, YouTube has made some changes to how it allows creators like Aghdam to monetize their channels with advertisements. And it's also changed how it flags and removes content that it deems inappropriate. Now, both of these things have angered a lot of content creators like Aghdam. And people who were, you know, trying to make their income from YouTube weren't very happy. In a video from 2017, Aghdam uploaded - she's accusing the company of censoring her and cutting into her advertisement revenue. So here, let's take a listen.


NASIM AGHDAM: Many singers like Nicki Minaj, Miley and many others, so inappropriate for children to watch, don't get age restricted. But my videos, my workout video gets age restricted.

HARNETT: Yeah, so that's a video from Aghdam. You can see she's upset about what YouTube has done. So Aghdam's father, Ismail, he has been speaking to news outlets. And he's telling them that the family had called police to report that their daughter was missing. They did it on Monday because she hadn't answered her phone for first two days. Ismail said he had told police she might be going to YouTube because she, quote, "hated the company." He also added that he had no idea that she owned a gun.

GREENE: Oh, but wait a minute. It's possible that authorities had actually been looking for her?

HARNETT: Yeah, that's right. The LA Times is now reporting that police in Mountain View, Calif., which is nearby, say they spotted a woman who went by the name Nasim Aghdam asleep in a car in a city parking lot early Tuesday morning and that they notified her family.

GREENE: Wow. OK. Can you just back up a little bit and remind us exactly what happened at the YouTube campus?

HARNETT: Yeah, sure. So police started getting 911 calls right around lunchtime, they immediately went to the campus. They entered the building searching for possible suspects, and that's when they encountered numerous employees fleeing the premises. One witness told NPR that they saw a victim lying on his back in the courtyard. The victim was bleeding from a bullet wound in the stomach.

GREENE: So I guess one of the many questions that has to be answered here is how she actually got onto this campus with a gun.

HARNETT: Right. So sources are saying that the shooting occurred in like an outdoor area that's next to a cafe, like a dining area, and that that outside area is easier to access than other parts of the campus. Now what we want to know is whether she ever had to go through a door to get to the courtyard because on these tech campuses, there are metal detectors. And to get around, anyone needs to have an employee ID badge to get into the building.

GREENE: All right. Sam Harnett from member station KQED in San Francisco covering this story for us. Sam, thanks a lot.

HARNETT: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Harnett