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Shooting motivated by video blogger’s anger with YouTube, police say

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An Iranian-born woman who blogged about surviving in a world filled with “injustice and diseases” opened fire at YouTube’s California headquarters because she was angry at a site she believed was suppressing her videos, police said on Wednesday.

In a series of Persian and English-language online postings, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39, had railed against the video-sharing site owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google before wounding three people and killing herself on Tuesday at its offices in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco.

In an English-language video posted to her YouTube account before the channel was deleted on Tuesday, Aghdam said, “I am being discriminated. I am being filtered on YouTube.”

“We know that she was upset with YouTube … that’s the motivation,” San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini told reporters. “Whether that rises to the level of terrorism hopefully will be determined in the next couple of weeks.”

The shooting came days after Aghdam had a dispute with her family that caused her to leave her San Diego home. On Monday, they reported her missing, police said.

Early the next day, Mountain View police found Aghdam sleeping in her car a few miles from Alphabet’s headquarters. She was “calm and cooperative” with the officers she spoke with, made no mention of YouTube and gave no indication she would harm anyone, Mountain View police said.

The San Jose Mercury News quoted Aghdam’s father, Ismail Aghdam, as saying he told police that his daughter might go to YouTube’s headquarters because she hated the company but Mountain view police disputed that account.

Police said officers had twice spoken with the family after finding her. In an initial call, Aghdam’s father said nothing about his daughter posing a threat but then called back to say she had posted vegan videos to YouTube and was angry about something that had been done to them, police said.

“At no point did her father or brother mention anything about potential acts of violence,” the statement said.

Nasim Najafi Aghdam appears in a handout photo provided by the San Bruno Police Department, April 4, 2018. San Bruno Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Efforts to reach Aghdam’s relatives by phone were unsuccessful.

However, Los Angeles television station KTLA and other media reported on Wednesday that Aghdam’s family in a statement expressed sorrow over the shooting and support for the victims.

“Our family is in absolute shock and can’t make sense of what has happened yesterday,” the family said, according to KTLA.

The San Bruno police chief said that Aghdam did not appear to have targeted particular victims when she opened fire with a legally purchased Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic handgun at an open-air plaza on the corporate campus in California’s Silicon Valley. Aghdam had visited an area gun range that morning, San Bruno police said.

In some online posts before the attack, Aghdam spoke about herself in heroic terms for surviving in a hostile world.

“I think I am doing a great job,” she wrote in Persian on her Instagram account. “I have never fallen in love and have never got married. I have no physical and psychological diseases. But I live on a planet that is full of injustice and diseases.”

In videos posted on her YouTube channels, which were taken down on Tuesday, Aghdam alternately bemoaned animal cruelty, promoted what appeared to be handmade jewelry and demonstrated exercise techniques. She offered few specifics about what she believed had been suppressed other than to complain that her workout videos had been flagged as adults-only content.

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YouTube has long faced complaints about alleged censorship on its site, and says it attempts to balance its mission of fostering free speech while providing an appropriate and lawful environment for users.

One of her three victims, a man in his 30s, remained in San Francisco General Hospital in serious condition on Wednesday, the hospital said. Two others were released Tuesday night, it said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave and Heather Somerville; additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in ANKARA, Gina Cherelus in NEW YORK and Ben Klayman in ANN ARBOR, Michigan; Writing by Rich McKay and Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott and James Dalgleish

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