In this blog series, we explore historical events to teach us what pre-incident indicators were present to reduce the chance of bad things happening in the future. History tells us that there is no detail too small, as even the slightest move off-center can set off an unfortunate domino effect.
This Case File shares a detailed description and analysis of the events surrounding the YouTube Headquarters shooting. You will learn important information, including:
- Background and Synopsis of Events
- Timeline of Pre-Incident Indicators
- Summary of Findings
- Pre-Incident Indicators Present
In 2018, Nasim Najafi Aghdam wounded three people at the YouTube Campus after entering an exterior parking garage and reaching an outdoor patio where she started firing. Nasim, an immigrant of Iranian descent, was motivated by perceived “discrimination” by YouTube for filtering and demonetizing her videos. Nasim routinely posted bizarre content on YouTube and other social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram, consisting of her beliefs and ideas regarding animal-rights and veganism and her discontent for YouTube.
Nasim had no indications of prior alcohol or drug abuse, run-ins with law enforcement, or violence. In fact, family members described her as the opposite of violent, explaining that “she never hurt one ant, so how could she shoot people?” In addition, they stated that they didn’t know Nasim had access to a weapon. It was not until a week before the attack that the family became concerned about Nasim.
On March 31st, the family reported Nasim as a missing person to authorities. She allegedly left her family due to troubles at home until she was found the morning before the shooting, sleeping in her car at a Walmart in Mountain View, twenty-five miles from the Youtube Headquarters. At that point, she was never identified as a threat even though her family warned law enforcement about her disappearance and her recent series of YouTube videos which expressed her anger with the company.
- On April 3, 2018 at 12:46 pm in San Bruno, California, a 39-year-old, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, a female of Iranian descent, wounded three people with a 9mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol before shooting herself. Aghdam was reportedly upset with YouTube practices and policies, including the removal of her videos. As a result, she decided to attack the YouTube Headquarters in San Bruno, California.
- Nasim, also known as Green Nasim, was a vegan and animal-rights activist, bodybuilder, and artist. She routinely posted on four YouTube channels: one in Farsi, one in Turkish, one in English, and one in the form of hand art about her discontent with YouTube for filtering and censoring her videos.
- The attack took place at the YouTube Headquarters where Nasim fired indiscriminately at people she had no relationship with before shooting herself. Hours before the attack, Nasim visited a local gun range where she practiced aiming at targets with her legally purchased semiautomatic pistol. The first shots began around 12:46pm and subsided shortly after Nasim died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.
Timeline of Pre-Incident Indicators:
1996: Nasim’s family immigrates from Iran to the United States when she is 16. Her family finds home in San Diego, California. (OCR)
2009: Nasim attends a protest for PETA in San Diego. She’s quoted for stating “for me, animal rights equal human rights.” (SF Gate)
2010: Nasim becomes an active user on Youtube. Her four channels receive great attention and she collects more than 9.2 million views overtime. (Billboard)
2011: Nasim begins a non-profit organization called Peace Thunder. The business was eventually dissolved and it is unknown if it earned any success. The company was intended to be an animal rights foundation. (Animal 24-7)
2013 (Five Years Prior to the Attack):
Her family moves from San Diego to Menifee (CA), next to their neighbor, John Rundell. Rundell describes the family as “very, very friendly” and never recalls having issues with them. He did not see Nasim Aghdam in the months leading up to the attack. This is most likely due to the fact that she was living with her grandmother in San Diego at the time. (USA)
February 2016: Nasim begins expressing discontent and frustration with YouTube, making claims that they were filtering and demonetizing her content.On her website, NasimeSabz.com, she complains that “when searching for [her] website in google, at the top of the link they add ‘an error occurred’ but there is no error! They add it to keep you from visiting my site.” (NY POST)
March 2016: Nasim posts a comment, explaining that life is not good in the US. In a later video around the same time, she responds to viewers that have questioned whether she is mentally ill. She states, “I don’t have any special mental or physical disease, but I live on a planet filled with disease, disorders, perversions, and injustices.” (NY POST)
June 2016: Nasim begins experiencing a huge drop in views and subscribers from her main YouTube channel. She allegedly launched several more Youtube channels in the 2016-2017 time period which also experienced drops in viewership. (Billboard)
January 2017: Nasim posts a video explaining that Youtube is “discriminating and filtering” her content.
February 2017: Nasim criticizes YouTube stating, “There is no equal growth opportunity on Youtube.” To further this rhetoric, she explains
“There is no free speech in the real world and you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system. Videos of targeted users are filtered and merely relegated, so that people can hardly see their videos.”
In addition, Nasim quotes Adolf Hitler, stating, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” (NBC Bay Area)
June 16, 2017: Nasim makes a complaint to YouTube regarding changes made on the site, specifically about views and revenue. (Billboard)
June 27, 2017: Nasim posts a screenshot of her email response from what appears to be the legal team at YouTube. Below the screenshot, she criticizes YouTube for discriminating against her and explains how she is experiencing a “huge drop in views” due to uploading her videos in Turkish and Farsi. (Billboard)
January 16, 2018: Nasim legally purchases a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol in San Diego from a gun dealer in her name (SFGate).
February 20, 2018: YouTube begins “demonetizing” Nasim’s four channels. As a result of dips in viewership, Nasim does not earn a share of YouTube advertising revenue. (Animal 24-7)
March 31, 2018: The last time that Nasim is seen by her family. During this time, she was reportedly living with her grandmother in San Diego. (Mercury News)
April 2, 2018: The brother and father of Nasim report her as a missing person from her hometown of San Diego, California. The two explain they are experiencing family problems at home, but never express much concern for Nasim. (Business Insider)
Day of the shooting — April 3, 2018:
1:40am – Mountain View Police find Nasim sleeping in her car in a local Walmart parking lot, nearly 25 miles away from the YouTube Headquarters. However, after thorough questioning, Nasim did not appear to be a threat, nor did she ever mention YouTube in her 20-minute conversation with authorities.
2:00am – Officers leave Nasim. Shortly after, they return a call to the family to tell of Nasim’s whereabouts. In addition, they explain that Nasim was polite and cooperative, and did not seem like a threat to anybody.
3:00am – Nearly one hour after the first call, Nasim’s father calls Mountain View Police to tell them she has posted a series of vegan videos. While he explains Nasim’s frustration with the company, he provides no information regarding a pending attack.
While the exact time is unclear, Nasim travels to San Bruno the same morning. Before she attacks the YouTube Headquarters, she visits a local gun range in San Bruno.
Around 12:00pm – After her visit to the gun range, Nasim drives and parks close to the YouTube Headquarters. She enters through an exterior parking lot and reaches an outdoor patio where she begins shooting.
12:46pm – Authorities receive 911 calls from people at the YouTube Headquarters reporting gunshots.
12:48pm – Police arrive at the scene and begin their building entry. They find three victims with gunshot wounds as well as the deceased perpetrator, Nasim Aghdam, who appeared to have self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Shortly after police arrive at the scene, the three wounded victims are taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The two women victims are released that same evening and by Thursday, the male victim is in “fair condition.” (Business Insider, KQUED)
Summary of Findings:
Nasim was born in Urmia, Iran, and immigrated to the US with her family in 1996. At the time, Nasim was in her late teens and struggled to assimilate into American culture. She continued to identify as “Persian” and speaking her native language, Farsi. The Aghdam family landed in San Diego, California where they resided for several years.
There, they continued to practice the Baha’I Faith which originated in Dubai in 1950. While this religion has no dietary restrictions, Nasim frequently condemned meat eaters and supported the vegans who “aligned” with the practices of Baha’I Faith. Because Shi’ite Islamists were the majority in Iran, followers of the Baha’I Faith were frequently persecuted. It is most likely for this reason that Nasim and her family found refuge in the US.
When Nasim first became frustrated with YouTube (2016), the platform had implemented a new advertising policy which “demonetized channels with less than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time.” However, Nasim’s English channel had more than 5,000 subscribers and still appeared to be demonetized (Animals 24-7). As a result, Nasim and other vegan YouTube users began to protest against the company for not only demonetizing their content, but censoring it too.
As Nasim’s frustration with YouTube continued to grow, so did her urges to do something about it. On January 16, 2018, Nasim legally purchased a gun from a dealer in San Diego. She later traveled to the Youtube Headquarters on April 3, 2018 and shot four people, including herself.
Since the attack in 2018, all three victims have fully recovered.
Pre-Incident Indicators Present:
- In 2009, Nasim attended a protest for PETA dressed in a wig and jeans painted with blood drops for the protest.
- On January 16, 2018, Nasim legally purchased a firearm from a gun dealer in San Diego.
- In the months leading up to the attack, Nasim lived with her grandmother in Riverside, rather than the rest of her family.
- In the time leading up to the attack, the family experienced conflict at home, but none indicating physical violence.
- On April 3, 2018, in the early afternoon, Nasim visited a local gun range in San Bruno, CA.
- March 31, 2018 is the last day Nasim is seen by her family.
- On April 2, 2018, Nasim is reported as a missing person by her brother and father.
- On April 3, 2018, authorities found Nasim sleeping in her car in a local Walmart parking lot in Mountain View, California (hours from her home in Menifee). She was released after questioning.
- On the morning of the attack, Nasim’s father called authorities again to report that Nasim had posted a series of concerning videos.
- In 2016, Nasim began to display strange and erratic behavior in her videos. She was questioned whether she was mentally ill by her viewers.
- In 2016, Nasim began posting content about her frustration with YouTube.
- Between 2017-2018, Nasim experienced a significant drop in viewership and subscription revenue.
- In 2017, Nasim sent an email to YouTube complaining about their new advertising policy. Shortly after, she posted a screenshot of their response online.
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By every metric, the role of protective intelligence is growing increasingly important for your security program. The Center for Protective Intelligence is Ontic's approach for sharing our expertise through content and community building in order to support the mission of physical security professionals of keeping people safe.
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