Big names can be big targets. If a company is big enough and touches enough people, it’s almost inevitable that at some point it will aggravate a few folks. How deep that aggravation runs varies from person to person and what they do about it can be as unique as each individual. For all that, there are some companies that are just so big and so well known that people can’t believe it could be attacked. That was the general feeling after a single shooter attacked several employees at the YouTube headquarters on April 3, 2018.
In addition to the attack being singularly unique due to the target location, it was additionally different from “the average” having been committed by a female shooter. The good news, as odd as it is to say, is that the only person killed that day was the attacker herself, while three others were wounded by gunfire. Due to the shooter’s cultural, religious and citizenship background, some tried to brand the attack as a terrorist event despite the fact there was no evidence to support that.
The attack was committed by 38-year-old Nasim Najafi Aghdam, who was born in Iran and immigrated to the United States in 1996. Her identified religious faith was the Baha’i Faith which is outside the “normal” religions that fall into the larger and better known faiths of Christianity, Islam or Hebrew. Much was made by the press after the attack about the fact that Aghdam was a vegan and was critical of anyone who wasn’t and any religion that didn’t specifically endorse the lifestyle.
During the lunch hour for many at approximately 12:45pm on April 3rd, Aghdam allegedly entered the property through a parking garage but never entered the headquarters building. Instead she approached an outdoor patio area and opened fire on employees that were out there. She shot three employees before turning the gun on herself, shooting herself once in the chest.
The weapon used was a legally purchased Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun. She had reportedly purchased the handgun just over two months prior to the attack and had been reported missing by her parents four days prior to the attack. Multiple news outlets also reported that Aghdam’s family reported that she hated YouTube due to their policies and procedures for viewership.
Despite the missing person’s report and the reports that Aghdam might be going to act on her hatred for YouTube, when police came in contact with her that morning she wasn’t detained or held in any way. Post event investigation also revealed that Aghdam had visited a shooting range the day before the attack. Practice? Familiarity with the weapon? Whatever it was, it wasn’t effective. Aghdam reportedly fired through one 10-round magazine before reloading and firing more at the YouTube location. With at least eleven rounds fired and only three victims wounded, none of them killed, the hit ratio doesn’t speak well of her shooting abilities. That’s a good thing for all of the other potential victims. If only other shooters were so incompetent, the casualty counts would be much lower.
True to form, while many in the Internet industry offered condolences and expressed shock that such a big company could be targeted by an active shooter, some also used the event to call for stricter gun control measures. The facts surrounding Aghdam’s legal purchase of an approved handgun and carrying magazines that fell within the restricted capacity limits under California law seem to not be enough for some.
It’s worth noting that, at least in some cases, there is no apparent mental or emotional challenge involved. In the case of this shooting, it appeared that the motivation was simple anger by a service user displeased by company policy on content management. Such is unavoidable and while tragic, the attack at YouTube shouldn’t be taken as anything more than a disgruntled user expressing her anger in a violent fashion.