YouTube shooter Nasim Aghdam visited gun range, had contact with police before shooting

YouTube shooting suspect Nasim Aghdam visited a gun range hours before she showed up at the company's California campus — packing a legally registered pistol and a grudge — and opened fire, wounding three people before she killed herself, police said Wednesday.

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"We know that she was upset with YouTube," San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said at a news conference.

Barberini said his department is investigating reports that Aghdam's family, who reported her missing, told neighboring Mountain View Police that she hated YouTube and might be found there.

Mountain View officers had found her sleeping in her car early Tuesday, before the shooting, and decided she did not pose a threat, officials said.

San Bruno police said they did not get any report from Mountain View that Aghdam might head there before she accessed the campus around lunchtime and started shooting in the courtyard with a Smith & Wesson 9 mm semiautomatic handgun that she had purchased legally, Barberini said.

He said Aghdam fired "quite a few" shots but there is no indication she was targeting specific people. When police arrived, they found one wounded victim on site, two others who had fled to a neighboring building and Aghdam dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot, Barberini said.

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Within hours, a portrait of the suspect began to emerge, along with clues to the motive.

The 38-year-old San Diego resident was an extremist vegan who claimed on her social media accounts that YouTube was discriminating against her videos, many of which focused on animal rights and veganism — mixed in with bizarre musical parodies.

"Youtube (sic) filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!" Aghdam wrote on her website.

"There is no free speech in real world & you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system. Videos of targeted users are filtered & merely relegated, so that people can hardly see their videos!"

"For me, animal rights equals humans rights."

Aghdam's family told NBC News that she was a longtime YouTube user who felt she had been cheated out of revenue from video views.

YouTube "stopped everything and now she has no income," her father, Ismail Aghdam, said in a brief phone interview.

The family reported Aghdam missing on Monday and said she had been gone since Saturday. Police in Mountain View, which is southeast of San Bruno, said they found her sleeping in a car in a parking lot.

The woman confirmed her identity after police matched her license plate to that of a missing person out of Southern California, a Mountain View police spokesperson said in an email. Her family was notified that she had been found.

"According to our report, at no point in our contact with the woman did she indicate she was a threat to herself or others," the Mountain View police official said.

It appears Aghdam was a longtime animal rights activist. Nearly a decade ago, she took part in a demonstration organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California to protest the killing of pigs during a military exercise.

News accounts from the time said she carried a plastic sword and wore pants spattered with fake blood. "For me, animal rights equals humans rights," she was quoted as saying.

PETA on Wednesday said Aghdam was not affiliated with the group in recent years. "She appeared at a few demonstrations about 9 years ago, but changed her phone number and dropped out of sight," the animal rights group said in a statement.

By last year, Aghdam had turned to protesting YouTube. Her Facebook page shows a photo of her standing on a street corner in February 2017 with the heading "YouTube Dictatorship" and the message: "Hidden policy: Promote stupidity, discrimination, suppression of truth."

In one Instagram video, Aghdam appears in a black hood and asks her audience: "When it comes to freedom of speech, do you think that Iran is better than USA or USA is better than Iran?”

Aghdam, according to her website, had four YouTube channels — one in Farsi, one in Turkish, one in English and one devoted to making beaded necklaces.

Public records show she worked for her father's electrical company and once had a company of her own called Peace Thunder. Her Facebook page described her simply as an "artist."