LOS ANGELES, CA — A train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles apparently tried to ram the Navy hospital ship USNS Tuesday, believing the ship was part of a plot to take over the government, according to the Department of Justice. He derailed the train at full speed, but came to a crashing halt a good 250 yards away from the ship.
The crash was witnessed by a CHP officer who took the engineer into custody after he allegedly tried to flee the scene, according to prosecutors. Forty-four-year-old Eduardo Moreno, of San Pedro, was turned over to the FBI Wednesday after confessing his plot repeatedly to investigators, a Department of Justice official said.
Moreno 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. Investigators allege Moreno ran the train off the end of the tracks and crashed through a series of barriers before coming to rest far short of his goal. No one was injured, and the Mercy was not damaged. The train leaked fuel that required a hazardous-materials cleanup.
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 Mercy on Tuesday afternoon.
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 U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe `the ship is what they say it’s for,”‘ according to the court document.
The L.A. 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.
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