The federal government arrested Eduardo Moreno, 44, a train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles for allegedly running a locomotive at full speed off the end of rail tracks near the USNS Mercy. The feds charged MOreno with one count of train wrecking as a result of an incident Tuesday afternoon.Moreno admitted in two separate interviews with law enforcement authorities that he intentionally derailed and crashed the train near the Mercy. 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. No one was injured in the incident, and the Mercy was not harmed or damaged in any way. The incident did result in the train leaking a substantial amount of fuel oil, which required clean up by fire and other hazardous materials personnel.
A California Highway Patrol officer, saw the crash and arrested Moreno as he ran away. The Los Angeles Port Police then took custody of Moreno, interviewed him and got consent to search his home. The CHP officer who saw 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 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.”
In his first interview with the Los Angeles Port Police, Moreno admitted 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. Moreno said 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 [the Mercy] for themselves.” In a second interview with FBI agents, Moreno said that “he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up.’” “Moreno said he thought that the U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship is what they say it’s for.’”
The 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 shows Moreno in the cab holding a lighted flare.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The train wrecking charge alleged in the criminal complaint carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.