A former U.S. Marine with ties to Modesto and Merced has been accused of planning a Christmas Day terror attack in San Francisco, according to federal court documents.
Everitt Aaron Jameson, 26, was targeting Pier 39 for the attack on Dec. 25, according to a criminal complaint. He was arrested Wednesday and charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Jameson told an undercover FBI agent he “had been there before and knew it was a heavily crowded area,” according to the complaint.
Jameson also met with the agent whom he believed to be associated with the senior leadership of the foreign terrorist organization, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, also known as ISIL). During his interactions with this undercover agent, Jameson offered to carry out violent acts and to provide financial support for the terrorist organization.
The 2009 graduate of Enochs High School lives in Modesto.
According to the court document, Jameson was inspired by the Oct. 31 New York terror attack that left eight people dead when a man drove onto a crowded bike path. He also was inspired by the 2015 deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino.
He told the agent he “wanted to use a combination of the two,” which the agent took to mean Jameson intended to inflict casualty by using both a vehicle and firearm.
Jameson had previously told a confidential source for the FBI that he’s a tow truck driver, “So I can make these services available.”
He also said, “I was a soldier in the Kuffar army before I reverted,” according to the criminal complaint. “I have been trained in combat and things of war.”
Kaffar is a derogatory term commonly used by radical Islamists as a label for the United States or western nations.
In 2009, Jameson attended basic recruit training and obtained a sharpshooter rifle qualification before being discharged for fraudulent enlistment, according to the complaint. Jameson failed to disclose a latent asthma history.
Two years earlier, when Jameson was 16, he wrote a letter to the editor that ran in The Modesto Bee, which voiced his support for the U.S. staying in Iraq.
“Say Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction (which he did; they weren’t put together and could’ve been within days). Would you like to have a maniac who waged biological warfare on his own people to walk around with WMD?,” he wrote. “I don’t know what you were taught, but I was raised to finish something you start, and guess what? It’s not finished yet.”
In his alleged plans for Pier 39, Jameson also told the undercover agent he wanted to use explosives to “tunnel” or “funnel” people into a location where he could inflict casualties, according to the complaint.
“Jameson said he did not have and did not need an escape plan because he was ready to die,” the complaint reads.
When Jameson’s Modesto home was searched Wednesday, a last will and testament was located.
On Dec. 16, Jameson met with an undercover FBI agent he believed to be associated with senior leadership of ISIS. He instructed Jameson to sit in the passenger seat of the vehicle directly in front of him.
“Within minutes of entering the vehicle, Jameson expressed that he was willing to do anything for ‘the cause,’” reads the complaint.
Jameson told the agent he was in Infantryman and well-versed in the “Anarchist Cookbook,” which describes the construction of improvised explosives and devices.
During this meeting is when Jameson told the undercover agent he could carry out the attack this week but that Christmas would be the perfect day, according to the complaint.
When the agent asked Jameson what assistance he needed, Jameson told him he needed ammunition, powder, tubing, nails, timers and remote detonators. For the firearm, he said he would prefer to use an assault rifle, explaining that he is trained in both the M-16 AND AK-47, according to the complaint.
The undercover agent asked Jameson if he was willing to do a video or write a statement “for the brothers.” Jameson later that day confirmed he’d written the statement.
The FBI located a letter during the search Wednesday signed by Abdullah Abu Everitt on Dec. 16 saying he, “... committed these acts upon the Kuffar, in the name of Dar al Islam, Allahu AKbar! You all have brought this upon yourselves ... Each and every Kuffar in this Nationalistic, Godless society has a hand in this. You’ve Allowed Donald J Trump to give away Al Quds to the Jews.”
Two days after the meeting, an FBI employee using an identifiable telephone with a Washington D.C. area code mistakenly called Jameson. When he answered, the FBI hung up but Jameson called back. He got a voicemail, which identifies the employee’s name but not employing agency.
Later that evening, while communicating with the undercover agent he’d met with two days earlier, Jameson said “I don’t think I can do this after all. I’ve reconsidered.”
The FBI obtained a search warrant for Jameson’s Modesto home the next day and searched it Wednesday. In addition to the letter and last will and testament, agents seized a Winchester .22 caliber rifle, a Ruger M77, a Ruger 9mm handgun, magazines, ammunition, fireworks.
During an interview with FBI agents, Jameson periodically stated “his support of ISIS and terrorism and discussed aspects of the plan to carry out an attack, noting that he would be happy if an attack was carried out,” reads the complaint.
At an initial appearance at U.S. District Court in Fresno Friday, Jameson wore a blue jail garb and a beanie-type head covering while sitting at table guarded by U.S. marshals.
He showed no emotion, but appeared to be listening intently to the proceedings.
Jameson’s attorney Eric Kersten, a federal public defender, said after the hearing that his client denied the allegation in a federal complaint accusing him of one count of violating the federal law making it illegal to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
He will enter a plea at another court date, he said.
Magistrate Barbara McAuliffe set a date of Dec. 28 for a detention hearing to discuss the condition of release. She also set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 5, but that’s considered a formality because it is expected that an indictment will be issued by then, Kersten said.
If convicted, Jameson faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Fresno Bee Reporter Lewis Griswold contributed to this report.