Everitt Aaron Jameson of Modesto was a Marine before being discharged in 2009. He converted to Islam after a divorce and losing his children to foster care, family says. Left: Facebook Right: Courtesy of family
UPDATE: Everitt Aaron Jameson, 26, appeared in court in Fresno County Thursday after the FBI filed terrorist-related charges on Friday against the former Marine sharpshooter from Modesto who they say planned a Christmas week attack on Pier 39.
Jameson was denied bail and he will remain in custody.
According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Christopher McKinney, Everitt Aaron Jameson, 26, picked the heavily populated tourist spot of Pier 39 for a possible attack because he said he knew he could use explosives, a tow truck and guns to inflict a lot of damage.
Jameson, who authorities say was a "radical jihadist," was was not immediately available for comment on Friday as he was taken into custody. His family did not know yet whether he had an attorney.
Jameson was charged in the Eastern District Court of California with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist.
His aunt, Sarah Jameson of Merced, told KTVU in an exclusive interview that the entire family was "shocked."
"We knew he had switched his religion," she said. "But we didn't know how much it had affected him. We just had no idea. That's not the Everett I know."
She described Jameson as "very smart." But the 26-year-old man had been "hardened," she said, after a messy divorce and losing his children, ages 2 and 3, in a Child Protective Services custody battle within the last year or so. The children do not live with their mother either, she said; they are in foster care.
"That is when he turned to the Muslim thing," Jameson said.
She said she didn't know many details about why Jameson's children were taken away from their mother shortly after birth other than that she and Jameson weren't supposed to be near each other. She cited domestic issues as the reason, without explaining further. She said she and Jameson were close; she last saw him a week ago.
KTVU has learned Jameson's ex wife, 25-year-old Ashley Jameson, has been in prison in Chowchilla since May of 2017 on a robbery charge. In January of 2015 Jameson had filed a restraining order against her for domestic violence.
Jameson was discharged from the US Marine Corps about 2009 because he didn't tell the truth about his history with asthma, documents state. Before the discharge, he earned a sharpshooter rifle qualification in basic recruit training. Before the Marines, his aunt said he had attended James Enoch High School in Modesto and took some criminal justice classes at Merced College, his aunt said.
According to the FBI affidavit, Jameson espoused "radical jihadi beliefs," including social media posts that support terrorism and he offered to give people who shared his beliefs rides in his company tow truck.
Since the fall, Jameson had been meeting with an undercover FBI agent whom he believed to be associated with ISIS, the documents state. In those conversations, he described his interest in "planning and undertaking a violent attack in San Francisco in support of ISIS." Jameson also stated that Christmas was the "perfect day to plan the attack," the documents state. And he picked Pier 39, the documents state, because he "had been there before and knew it was a heavily crowded area" and that "no reconnaissance or site survey would be necessary." Jameson also said he wanted to use "explosives," and he described a plan where where people would "funnel" into a place where he could "inflict casualties." He said he did not need an escape plan because he was "ready to die," the documents state.
He said he'd need ammunition, powder, tubing and nails, and would prefer an M-16 and AK-47. He also told the undercover agent he needed timers and remote detonators, the documents state. He told the agent he would build the devices in the mountains.
The undercover agent told him to hold off until he got approval from superiors. Jameson acknowledged that he understood.
The complaint also reveals that an FBI employee accidentally called Jameson’s phone from a number with a Washington D.C. area code. Jameson called the number back, but the employee let call go to voicemail – which identified the name and not the agency of the caller.
Hours later, Jameson appeared to have second thoughts about the plot – telling the undercover agent “I also don’t think I can do this after all. I’ve reconsidered.”
When the undercover agent replied, “We can only do Allah’s will,” James reportedly replied, “Inshallah (God willing) one day I can. But I can’t.”
FBI agents were tipped off to Jameson in September, when a confidential informant reported a suspicious Facebook account, where the account holder was "liking" and "loving" posts that were pro-ISIS, documents state. For instance, he loved a post in November that is an image of Santa Claus standing in New York with a box of dynamite. He also told agents that "we need something along the lines of a San Bernardino," referring to a terrorist shooting attack in 2015.
The informant began messaging Jameson, who told him that he was there to "join the cause against the darul kuffar ( or nonbelievers). I'm ready." He also said that he took his shahada proving that he was believer two years at the Merced Islamic Center. No one answered the phone there on Friday when KTVU called and left a message.
Undercover FBI agents began more closely following Jameson in December and messaging him. In one of the conversations, Jameson said, "I have been trained in combat and things of war."
On Wednesday, FBI agents felt they had enough evidence to obtain a search warrant at Jameson's home. They found a a couple of .45-caliber magazines, a Rugers model M77 and a Winchester 22. caliber rifle, ammunitions and some fireworks.
They also found a handwritten letter, that appeared to be his will. It was signed by Abdallah Abu Everitt Ibn Gordon Al-Amriki and was dated Dec. 16. It was written in the past tense and said that "you all have brought this upon yourselves." He named Donald Trump and the Jews as the reasons for this "godless society," and he explained the attack was the reason "we have penetrated and infiltrated your disgusting country."
Sarah Jameson said that the family had been OK with her nephew converting to Islam, although they had joked with him about "blowing things up."
But he would always answer, "We're the good ones," she said.