The Modesto man accused of plotting a Christmas Day terrorist attack in San Francisco professed his faith to Islam at the Islamic Center of Merced two years ago.
The imam (Islamic leader) there declined to comment about Everitt Aaron Jameson and his involvement with the mosque, but Imam Ahmad Kayello of the Islamic Center of Modesto said, “This person didn’t become radical from the mosque that he attends. Something common between all these radicals and terrorists is that they isolate themselves from the communities and the mosques.”
For those people Kayello said, “The imam will become Google, YouTube, the internet search engine. The internet is contaminated by these (terrorist) ideologies.”
“Islam, just like other religions, came to earth to spread peace, not to spread evil and terrorism,” Kayello said.
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Jameson, 26, was arrested Friday and charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after multiple communications with an FBI informant he believed was an ISIS leader.
He will make his second appearance in federal court in Fresno on Thursday for a detention hearing to discuss the conditions of his release.
Jameson was brought to the attention of the FBI by an informant who reported Jameson ‘liked’ and ‘loved’ pro-ISIS and pro-terrorism posts on Facebook and posted a GIF of a crowd giving a standing ovation to an article discussing the Halloween Day terror attacks in New York that killed eight people, according to an FBI affidavit.
In October the informant messaged Jameson and asked if he is an Islamic “revert,” according to the affidavit.
“Yes I am. That is what will make me more useful. I can blend in. Or shock and awe,” Jameson said, according to the affidavit.
He told the informant he took his Shahada two years ago at the Islamic Center of Merced.
Kayello said the Shahada is the first of five pillars of Islam and a declaration or testimonial of faith.
“It doesn’t mean (because) I took my Shahada I have completed everything,” he said. “There is the other acts of worship. The Shahada is the key that opens the door.”
And one who does not continue to worship under the guidance of an imam might be led astray and become radicalized. Kayello said it is his job at the Imam to warn his congregation, particularly the youth, “of these terrorist ideologies and at the same time encouraging them to be very effective individuals in their community.”
He said leaders in the mosques around the Central Valley keep in contact.
Kayello said he knows little of Jameson but that he and other imam would not hesitate to report to law enforcement any potential threats and cooperate with investigations.
Jameson had plans to attack Pier 39 by modeling a combination of the Halloween day attack in New York in a which a man drove a truck onto a bicycle path, killing eight, and the 2015 terrorist shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 dead. He also wanted to use explosives to ‘tunnel’ or ‘funnel’ people into a location where he could inflict casualties,” according to the affidavit.
When the FBI searched Jameson’s Modesto home last week they found a last will and testament, a letter explaining his reasons for the planned attack, as well as firearms and ammunition.
Kayello praised the FBI’s work not only for having “truly saved San Francisco and the county from true evil,” but also saving “the Muslim community in Merced and Stanislaus counties from the evil reaction and backlash.”
As news of Jameson’s arrest broke on Friday, Modesto Police increased patrols in the area of the Mosque on Carpenter Road and the Woodland West Neighborhood Watch offered to provide security, Kayello said.