A train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles is in federal custody after allegedly running a locomotive at full speed off the end of tracks near the USNS Mercy, claiming the hospital ship was part of a “government takeover.”
Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro, was charged in a criminal complaint with one federal count of train wrecking, which carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Moreno was arrested Tuesday afternoon and turned over to FBI agents early Wednesday morning. Arraignment was set for May 7, prosecutors said.
According to the criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, Moreno admitted in two separate interviews with law enforcement authorities that he intentionally derailed and crashed the train near the San Diego-based ship on Tuesday afternoon.
Moreno ran the train off the end of tracks, and crashed through a series of barriers before coming to rest about 250 yards from the Mercy, prosecutors allege. No one was injured, and the Mercy was not damaged. The train leaked fuel that required a hazardous-materials cleanup.
The train crash was witnessed by a California Highway Patrol officer, who took Moreno into custody as he fled the scene, federal prosecutors said.
The CHP officer who witnessed the crash reported seeing “the train smash into a concrete barrier at the end of the track, smash into a steel barrier, smash into a chain-link fence, slide through a parking lot, slide across another lot filled with gravel, and smash into a second chain-link fence,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.
When the CHP officer contacted Moreno, he allegedly made a series of spontaneous statements, including, “You only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will,” according to court papers.
In his first interview with port police, Moreno admitted crashing the train, saying he was suspicious of the Mercy and believed it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19, such as a “government takeover,” according to prosecutors.
Moreno allegedly stated that he acted alone and had not pre-planned the attack. While admitting to intentionally derailing and crashing the train, he said he knew it would bring media attention and “people could see for themselves,” referring to the Mercy, according to the affidavit.
In a second interview with FBI agents, Moreno stated that “he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up,”‘ according to the affidavit. “Moreno stated that he thought that the USNS Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship is what they say it’s for,”‘ according to the court document.
Los Angeles Port Police reviewed video recorded from the locomotive’s cab, according to the affidavit. One video shows the train clearly moving at a high rate of speed before crashing through various barriers and coming into close proximity to three occupied vehicles. A second video allegedly shows Moreno in the cab holding a lighted flare.
The Mercy docked at the port Friday. Its 1,000 hospital beds are being used as a relief valve for Southland hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients. The hospital ship is not treating any COVID-19 patients.
— City News Service