SAN BRUNO — Relatives of the YouTube shooter are lashing out at Mountain View police, accusing the agency of missing an opportunity to prevent the violent attack during a police stop just 12 hours before she unleashed a barrage of bullets outside the company’s San Bruno headquarters.
Upset family members said police did not heed their warnings that Nasim Aghdam was in the Bay Area likely because of her anger at the internet video-sharing giant. But police officials said the 38-year-old appeared calm in a 20-minute conversation with officers after they found her sleeping in her car, and neither she nor her family mentioned she was a danger to herself or others when they notified the family after speaking with her.
The war of words played out Wednesday, as investigators here and in the Southern California towns where Aghdam lived digged deeper into the chaotic attack. New details emerged showing her final path: from San Diego, to Mountain View, to practice shooting a 9mm handgun at gun range hours before she wounded three people, then killed herself, at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno on Tuesday.
“Our family is in absolute shock and can’t make sense of what has happened yesterday. Although no words can describe our deep pain for this tragedy, our family would like to express their utmost regret, sorrow for what has happened to innocent victims. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families,” her family said in a statement released Wednesday. “We are praying for speedy recovery of the injured and ask God to bestow patience upon all persons hurt in this horrific, senseless act.”
Aghdam had briefly fallen off the map, considered a missing person by her family until she surfaced in Mountain View early Tuesday morning.
Family members last saw her on March 31.They reported her missing on Monday, filing an “at-risk” report with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office as she had recently lived in San Diego with her grandmother. A spokeswoman with the Sheriff’s office there said the family did not say if they worried Aghdam posed a threat to anyone.
At 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, Mountain View police encountered Aghdam asleep in her white 2006 Pontiac Coupe, parked in a Walmart lot. According to police officials, she identified herself and calmly told officers she was having problems with her family and looking for a job.
The department has faced intense criticism from Aghdam’s family, who in interviews late Tuesday asserted they warned police who called them about her potential for violence and said Aghdam “was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life.”
Her brother, Shahran Aghdam, said he was particularly worried after learning his sister had been contacted by police prior to the shooting in Mountain View, and realizing how close that was to YouTube headquarters.
After the shooting, family members told reporters they were not aware she had a gun and surmised it must have been a recent purchase. Authorities said she legally owned the 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun.
“We called the cop again (Tuesday) and told him there is a reason she went all the way from San Diego to there so she might do something. I didn’t know she has a gun. I thought she might go there and start a fight or something and then the cop told me he would keep an eye on her,” her brother said.
“They didn’t do anything and she got killed and 3 or 4 more people got hurt. I did the best I can to avoid it but the cop didn’t do their job,” her brother insisted in an interview with this news agency.
Mountain View police objected to that characterization and in a statement Wednesday detailed their exchange with Aghdam’s family. They said a check of her license turned up the missing person’s report, and they contacted sheriffs in San Diego.
“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,” police said in the statement. “Throughout our entire interaction with her, she was calm and cooperative… she in no way met any reason for us to speak with her further or possibly detain her.
“At no point did her father or brother mention anything about potential acts of violence or a possibility of Aghdam lashing out as a result of her issues with her videos,” the statement read.
Hours later, Aghdam visited a Bay Area gun range, San Bruno Chief Ed Barberini said. He declined to identify which shooting range, but several San Bruno police officers on Wednesday spent nearly two hours at Jackson Arms, a South San Francisco range. It opens at 11 a.m. and is about a 10-minute drive from YouTube headquarters.
Investigators declined to say why they were there. Range owner Jason Remolona refused to answer questions about whether Aghdam had been at the range, referring questions to San Bruno police.
The full extent of the violent designs that Aghdam had for the online video giant are still being explored. Aghdam told her family a couple of weeks ago that she was “angry” that YouTube purportedly censored her videos and stopped paying her for content she had been posting about veganism and animal rights.
The FBI and ATF are also involved in the investigation, and on Wednesday morning, authorities executed search warrants in the Riverside County community of Menifee, where her father lives, and at the San Diego home where relatives say she most recently lived with her grandmother.
Barberini added that Aghdam’s car has been impounded and is being examined but that investigators have not recovered any letter or manifesto forecasting the shooting.
At her family’s home in Menifee, Aghdam’s father walked out of the house Wednesday afternoon and handed a gathering of reporters a typed statement shortly after a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent left carrying a heavy, gray plastic bin around 2 p.m.
Barberini said there is no evidence linking the woman to anyone at YouTube, nor is there evidence she selected her targets. Rather, the shooting seemed motivated by her anger at YouTube’s “policies and practices,” he said.
“We know that she was upset with YouTube, and we’ve determined that right now that’s the motivation that we’ve identified,” Barberini said. “Whether that rises to the level of terrorism hopefully will be determined in the next couple weeks.”
San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said Aghdam’s autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Results were not released, although officials have said she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital said Wednesday that two shooting victims have been released: a 32-year-old woman admitted in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman admitted in fair condition. A 36-year-old man remains hospitalized in serious condition, the hospital said.
Throughout early Wednesday afternoon, small groups of six to eight people were escorted in and out of YouTube headquarters, some leaving with backpacks and folders. At least five people in YouTube and Google security jackets patrolled the sidewalk out front and guarded entrances to the campus parking garages, which opened occasionally to let a car exit.
Police officials said the building would be closed to normal business for a couple of days, and employees would work at other campuses.
YouTube spokesman Chris Dale said employees are encouraged to take time off from work and the company is increasing security measures at all facilities worldwide. The spokesman, however, said current security measures prevented Aghdam from entering the complex.
Her victims were shot in an outside courtyard.
“Yesterday’s horrific act of violence was deeply shocking and disturbing to our YouTube family,” the company said in a statement. “Still we are uplifted by the heroic acts we witnessed both from employees and the San Bruno community, especially the first responders.”
Bay Area News Group staff writers Matthias Gafni and Southern California News Group staff writer Richard De Atley contributed to this report.
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