Sometimes, bad things happen for no good reason and come out of nowhere. In recent years, the United States has been home to dozens of violent attacks in what were once safe, public places.
The most recent of these unexpected attacks came on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, in a place where happy employees were simply enjoying their well-earned lunches. It began, as these things do, with random gunshots and ended in panic and sorrow…
Just After Lunch
It was about 12:45 in the afternoon when the courtyard outside a large industrial park in San Francisco began to fill with the sounds of panic. A man named Todd Sherman, who worked in the product management section of the company that owned the business park, looked outside the meeting room to see a cavalcade of panicked people making their way outside.
It was a chaotic scene at the industrial park and many of the employees there that fateful afternoon would remember the uncertainty of the moment before anything else. Fire alarms were going off and in addition to panicked screams, loud bangs could be heard echoing inside the building…
Software engineer Zach Vorhies was the type of guy who made his way around the campus of the Youtube industrial park via skateboard. It was a quick, portable, thoroughly Californian way to get around, so why not? As he left the building, he heard someone in the courtyard shout, “Come and get me!”
He slowed down and began to take in his surroundings when he discovered a man lying on his back: blood stains soaking through his shirt. Something was very wrong. As police began to stream into the area, he decided to get the heck out of Dodge, as quickly as he could…
Waiting and Praying
Zach wasn’t alone, many of the employees working at the industrial park had locked themselves in offices, conference rooms, or other common areas to avoid what the rumors were saying was a deadly shooter on Youtube’s campus. The blood drips strewn about the area and the POP, POP sounds they had all heard finally made sense.
Those who did see what was going on remember seeing an armed person, shrouded in a hood and sunglasses, making their way determinedly through the campus, firing wildly. Among those injured by the shooter were two women, who ran across the street to take shelter at a local restaurant…
One of those women had been caught in the leg by a stray bullet. Michael Finney, who worked at the Carl’s Jr. restaurant they had sought refuge in, did what he could to stem the bleeding by fashioning a tourniquet out of a bungee cord until ambulances could arrive. Still, no one knew who was responsible.
Those who saw the shooter described a shrouded figure wearing glasses and carrying a huge pistol. What they didn’t know at the time, and what would only become clear once the whole ordeal was done, was that the shooter was unusual for many reasons: least of all because she was a woman…
The female shooter had opened fire on the headquarters of popular video-sharing website YouTube’s headquarters. Her sudden outburst of violence was unlike many that have gripped the nation in recent years, mainly because the person behind the mass shooting was not a male. In fact, an FBI report of shooter incidents nationwide between 2000 and 2013 determined that out of 160 attacks, only six were carried out by females.
Room to Room
Before the shooter could do more damage than she already had, dozens of police officers converged on the complex. They were conducting a room-to-room search for any attackers. They had no idea that they were looking at a lone shooter. As they escorted a number of workers out with their hands in the air, they also began searching for survivors…
Search for Survivors
As they searched the building, they discovered one gunshot victims near the entrance. They followed the trail of blood and the slowly ebbing sound of screams to their source. There, in the center of it all was the shrouded shooter, lying deceased on the floor. She had apparently turned the gun on herself when she thought her work was done.
Who was She?
Police identified the deceased shooter as Nasim Najafi Aghdam. She was actually well-known as a prolific YouTube personality. She had made a series of videos about veganism that she had posted on her website and had pages in Persian, Turkish, and English. But none of that explained why she had come to the Californian offices of the company to shoot it up…
Looking for Her
Apparently, Ms. Aghdam’s father had reported her missing a few days prior to the shooting. Police in Mountain View, California eventually found her in the parking lot of a shopping center. It was around 1:40 am and she was sleeping in a car a few miles from Google headquarters. Still, she gave no indication then of her intentions.
Ms. Aghdam told the officers that she was not in any danger and was not a danger to anyone else. She had in fact traveled to the San Francisco area to look for a job. The police talked to her for a good 20 minutes and she never once mentioned Youtube or the fact that she was going to head there the next day…
She was calm and cooperative, if a little sleepy for being awoken in the middle of the night. “At no point during our roughly 20-minute interaction with her did she mention anything about YouTube, if she was upset with them, or that she had planned to harm herself or others,” explained the Mountain View officer who conducted the interview.
Assault on Youtube
The next morning, a little before lunch time, Ms. Aghdam parked her car at a business near the YouTube industrial park. She entered the building through one of the company’s parking garages, and made her way to an outdoor courtyard the employees usually ate lunch in. She pulled the gun from her pocket and began to shoot…
There was no clear evidence linking Ms. Aghdam to any of the shooting victims and in fact searches of two homes in Southern California for clues revealed nothing. According to the subsequent investigation, Ms. Aghdam shot up YouTube because she was irritated by the company’s censorship practices.
Censored and Blocked
Ms. Aghdam had even told her family that she “hated” YouTube for both censoring her videos and paying her less. She said they were specifically keeping people from visiting her linked personal website. “When searching for my website in google, at top of link they add ‘an error occurred’ but there is no error!…They add it to keep you from my visiting my site…”
Ultimately, two women were being treated for severe injuries, several more were injured and in critical to fair condition. One 36-year-old YouTube employee was also in critical condition as well. Authorities have not released any info on the identity of the victims, but have explained that most of them should hopefully recover.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced in a recent statement that he was “grateful to everyone inside and outside the company for the outpouring of support and best wishes in lieu of the tragedy. As people recover, hopefully police will be able to uncover more of what caused Ms. Aghdam to react in such a violent, unpredictable way, and see if anything could have been done to prevent it.