LOS ANGELES • Federal agents have arrested a former US Marine for allegedly plotting a Christmas attack in San Francisco inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, according to court documents.
Tow truck driver Everitt Aaron Jameson, 26, was planning to target the Pier 39 tourist spot, according to an affidavit submitted by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent Christopher McKinney.
The suspect, arrested on Friday, is said to have outlined to undercover agents how he wanted to use explosives to target crowds at the pier between Dec 18 and 25 because "Christmas was the perfect day to commit the attack". Jameson professed not to need an escape plan as he was "ready to die".
His home in Modesto, California was raided by FBI agents on Wednesday, where they allegedly found his last will and testament with weapons and ammunition.
Jameson attended basic training with the Marine Corps in 2009 and graduated with a "sharpshooter" rifle qualification, according to the FBI, but was discharged after failing to disclose a history of asthma.
According to Mr McKinney, Jameson selected Pier 39 - which gets around 10 million visitors a year - because he "knew it was a heavily crowded area".
"Jameson explained that he also desired to use explosives and described a plan in which explosives could 'tunnel' or 'funnel' people into a location where Jameson could inflict casualties," Mr McKinney said.
The suspect inadvertently revealed his plans to an undercover FBI agent he believed to be a senior leader of ISIS, according to the court document.
Jameson said the US needed "another attack like New York or San Bernardino", adding that he wanted to use vehicles and firearms to carry out an attack.
According to the criminal complaint, Jameson "has espoused radical jihadi beliefs, including authoring social media posts that are supportive of terrorism".
He had voiced support for the Oct 31 attack in New York in which an Islamist drove a pickup truck into a crowded bike path, killing eight people, said the FBI, and was active on Facebook, "liking" pro-ISIS posts.
He was charged in the Eastern District Court of California with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
"He was under surveillance by law enforcement, and the public was never in imminent danger," the FBI said in a statement.
Local newspaper the Merced Sun-Star published a video interview with a man it identified as the suspect's father, Mr Gordon Jameson, who described his son as "the gentle, kind type of Muslim person" and said the FBI had got its facts wrong.
"I don't know too much about the case... but I know my son wouldn't harm nobody. He wouldn't do that to innocent people," he said.