Prosecutors charged a locomotive engineer who worked at the Port of Los Angeles with intentionally derailing a train at full speed near the US Navy Hospital Ship Mercy because of suspicions over it and activities surrounding COVID-19, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro was charged with one count under a little known federal statute of train wrecking, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in the incident which took place Tuesday, according to the 10-page criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
After he was arrested, Moreno was held overnight and subsequently turned over to FBI agents Wednesday morning. Prosecutors allege Moreno ran the train off the end of tracks, and crashed through a series of barriers before coming to rest more than 250 yards from the Mercy in an incident captured on video.
The train leaked fuel oil which required clean up by fire and other hazardous materials personnel, but no one was hurt in the incident. A CHP officer who witnessed the crash and took Moreno into custody told authorities he saw the train smash through a barrier at the end of the tracks before plowing through several obstacles including a steel barrier and chain-link fence. It then slid through a parking lot, across another lot filled with gravel, and smashed into a second chain-link fence, according to the affidavit.
Moreno allegedly told the officer, "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," the complaint alleges.
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Moreno, who waived his right to speak to an attorney before being interviewed by investigators, admitted in two post-arrest interviews, that he intentionally ran the train off the track because wanted to bring attention to the government's activities regarding COVID-19, and was suspicious of the U.S.N.S. Mercy.
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In his first interview with the Los Angeles Port Police, Moreno acknowledged that he "did it," saying that he was suspicious of the Mercy and believing it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover, the affidavit states.
Moreno also told investigators he acted alone and had not pre-planned the attempted 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.'"