Gordon Jameson says his only son, Everitt Jameson, is a kind, gentle, loving person and a peaceful practicing Muslim incapable of the crimes he's been charged with in federal court.
Everitt Jameson, a 26-year-old ex-U.S. Marine, has been charged in connection with an alleged "foreign terrorist" plot to launch an attack at Pier 39 in San Francisco on Christmas Day, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Gordon Jameson, a Merced resident, spoke to the Sun-Star on Friday and said he was shocked by the charges and he doesn't believe there's any truth to the allegations.
"He just ain't no terrorist, no way," Gordon Jameson told the Sun-Star. "He would never hurt people. Not ever. It's just unbelievable. That's not who he is."
Jameson, 48, said Everitt is his oldest child and only son. He has three younger sisters, two who are 21 and one who is 13. He said his son had been living in Merced but moved to Modesto within the last year.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday searched the family home in southeast Merced where Everitt Jameson had lived. He said authorities did not take anything from the home.
He said his son began studying the Islamic faith about a year ago and had been learning Arabic.
"He attended the Muslim church in Merced and in Modesto," Gordon Jameson said.
Members of the Islamic Center of Merced did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
According to the criminal complaint, Everitt Jameson told a confidential FBI source he attended the Islamic Center in Merced.
Gordon Jameson, who described himself as "devout Pentecostal," said he and his son frequently discussed their religious beliefs.
"We'd talk about Jesus - not argue, just talk - and he'd say 'Yeah, Dad, we all believe in the same God,'" Jameson said. "He never once spoke about hate or wanting to hurt anything. He never said anything about wanting to blow people up."
Jameson said family members even "joked" with Everitt Jameson about his Islamic faith, sometimes calling him "Isis" as a kind of kidding nickname.
But that teasing doesn't seem funny to Gordon Jameson anymore.
"They told me my son's on suicide watch, but they haven't told us anything about where he is. Just in custody somewhere, we don't know where," Gordon Jameson said.
In recent months, Everitt Jameson had turned to his religion for comfort, his father said, after his two children, a 3-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, were "taken away from him by CPS" in Stanislaus County.
Gordon Jameson said his son lost custody of his children in recent years as his family struggled. Their mother, Ashley M. Jameson, is serving prison time at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. Details of the sentence were not immediately available.
In August 2016, Everitt Jameson filed for a divorce in Merced County Superior Court. In a court declaration, he wrote: "My children are in foster care, (sic) this divorce will allow me to get them back."
But the reunion never happened.
About three months ago, Gordon Jameson said, his son was told both his children had been "adopted out" and he wouldn't get them back.
"He lost his kids for good and he was devastated," Gordon Jameson said.
Everitt Jameson had recently purchased a car and was talking about getting his own place.
"We thought things were turning around," Gordon Jameson said.
He had been working at Anderson's Towing in Modesto and seemed to like his job. 'This all comes as a shock to us," Anderson owner Duane Thompson said Friday, adding that Jameson had worked for the company since August.
Billy Myers with Myers Towing said in October he held a two-day certification class for local tow-truck drivers and Everitt Jameson was among the attendees. Myers described Everitt Jameson as quiet and respectful and said he only stood out when he took breaks to pray.
"It shocks me," Myers said of the case against Everitt Jameson. He said the arrest shouldn't reflect negatively on Anderson Towing, which he said does background checks on new employees that includes fingerprinting.
But losing his children had sent Everitt Jameson into a deep depression.
"He jumped through every hoop they put up for him to get his kids back," Gordon Jameson said. "They did him pretty well dirty. A dad doesn't have much rights to try to get his kids back."
Gordon Jameson said he'd become concerned his son might take his own life. They discussed suicide more than once, he said.
"I was really afraid. I told him, 'Please don't do that.' I just wouldn't know what I'd do if that happened," Gordon Jameson said.
He said news of his son's arrest seemed to come out of nowhere.
Only last Sunday, Gordon Jameson said, he and Everitt and some friends had traveled to Oakland to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Raiders.
"We were tailgating, having a good time. It was a great time. It was a great game," he said. "Then, all the sudden, bam! This just drops down on us."
His father taught him to play baseball and coached him as a child, he said. Everitt Jameson attended Enochs High School in Modesto and was on the wrestling team.
Duane Brooks, the Enochs wrestling coach, said Everitt Jameson didn't make much of an impression on him during the two years he was on the team.
"He's not the kind of kid who stood out," Brooks said. "He was on the JV team. He was just a normal kid at the time who wrestled for us and graduated and went to the military."
Tyler Knobel, who was a freshman on the 2008-09 wrestling team, said Everitt Jameson was "a bigger dude ... kind of quiet."
"I remember him from practice," Knobel said. "He was mostly quiet. There was nothing overt about him, not overly aggressive or showing any violent tendencies other than what was happening on the wrestling mat."
Brooks called the news of Jameson's alleged involvement in a possible terror plot "surreal" and "deeply disturbing."
"There wasn't anything that would make you think something like this would happen one day," he said of Everitt Jameson. "It's surprising and sad."
Gordon Jameson said he's confused, frustrated and scared for his son.
"It's not true. I don't know what the FBI are trying to pin on him. I don't know why," he said. "He's never once talked about bombing anything. He'd never hurt a single person. He's more of a sweet type of person, a gentle kind of person.
"He's a peaceful Muslim person."
Modesto Bee reporters Erin Tracy, Kevin Valine and Brian Clark contributed to this report.