YouTube Software Engineer Describes Seeing Altercation In Building Courtyard

Apr 3, 2018
Originally published on April 3, 2018 9:19 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A shooter opened fire inside of the Northern California headquarters of YouTube this afternoon. Police say the shooter was a woman who died of a self-inflicted gunshot. At least three other people were wounded. There's no information so far that points to a possible motive. Zachary Vorhies is a senior software engineer at YouTube. He's with us on the line now. And I understand you were in the middle of your workday. When was the first sign of trouble?

ZACHARY VORHIES: Yeah, that's correct. I was at work. And I was just about to go to lunch when the fire alarms went off. And so all of our team members just grabbed our stuff, and we exited out the back of the building. And as - I had my skateboard with me, my electric skateboard. I put it down on the ground. I jumped on, and I started heading downhill towards the courtyard. When I approached the courtyard, that's when I heard a commotion. I heard a man yelling out, do you want to shoot me? And about 25 feet away from him was somebody on the ground with an apparent gunshot wound in the stomach. And he was bleeding out of his shirt. And he wasn't moving. And I didn't realize that he had been shot. I just was like, what's going on? And...

CORNISH: And this is on campus. So do you know if these are employees involved?

VORHIES: This is on campus, yeah. I didn't get a good look at the man other than I heard that he was yelling to somebody that I didn't hear, do you want to shoot me? And I was - I froze. And at that point, the door that separates the courtyard from the street swung open, and a police officer entered with an assault rifle. At that point, I realized this was not someplace I needed to be.

CORNISH: Yeah, since the fire alarm had been pulled, I imagine that you're surrounded by employees. Is everyone watching this scene unfold?

VORHIES: The reason why was because I was on a skateboard while everybody else was walking. So I was actually ahead of everybody else going down the hill. So I was one of the first people, I think, to arrive after the fire alarm had been hit. And that's when I saw everything.

CORNISH: Did you see the shooter?

VORHIES: I thought that I had because I thought that it was a guy that was the shooter but, you know, never saw a gun on him. And now it turns out that there was a woman who was - who's the shooter. And so what I believe that I saw was the man arguing with the shooter, who was a woman.

CORNISH: You said you saw police enter. What happened next?

VORHIES: They entered, and I ran away in the other direction. And I slipped into a parking structure. And I escaped out the side. And then once I came onto the street, I saw more cops, probably around, like, five to 10. And they were getting ready to go in as well behind the person who had already answered - so yeah.

CORNISH: So far, have you heard anything about your colleagues who were injured?

VORHIES: I don't know. I don't know who was shot. I heard that there was three to four people that were injured. And I don't know what their condition is or who they are. And I just pray to God that they're all right.

CORNISH: We know some workplaces do do some preparation for staff for events such as this. Is that something you've ever done at YouTube?

VORHIES: We've never had any sort of drills before at YouTube.

CORNISH: And so when this fire alarm went off, were people - it sounds like people were not necessarily running out of the building.

VORHIES: No. We all just thought that it was a fire. You know, it's like, you know, sometimes computers can catch fire. You know, there's a lot of computers at YouTube. So we thought that it might have just been somebody who was being overly cautious. And so we just thought it was a normal fire drill or - I'm sorry - like, a fire alarm - no idea that there was an active shooter on campus.

CORNISH: Have you heard anything from your bosses yet?

VORHIES: I have not.

CORNISH: Well, Zachary Vorhies, we're glad that you're safe. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

VORHIES: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.