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Engineer pleads guilty to running train off tracks near ‘suspicious’ Navy hospital ship

A train engineer admitted he intentionally derailed the train near a hospital ship that was sent to Los Angeles to provide aid in the early stages of the Covid pandemic.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — An engineer pleaded guilty to intentionally running a train off the tracks in the port of San Pedro, California, near a Navy hospital ship docked there to provide assistance to Los Angeles hospitals in the early stages of the Covid pandemic last year.

Eduardo Moreno, 45, of San Pedro, pleaded guilty to one count of committing a terrorist attack, according to a statement Thursday from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced March 11.

The USNS Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital ship, was deployed in San Pedro from March to May 2020 to treat patients that weren't infected with Covid-19 to alleviate the pressure on Los Angeles-area hospitals overwhelmed with huge numbers of Covid patients.

Moreno ran a locomotive at full speed off the end of the railroad tracks near where the ship was docked. He failed to do any damage to the ship itself and no one was injured in the attack.

The train's momentum pushed it through a concrete barrier, a steel wall, a chain link fence and past two lots into yet another chain-link fence, according to a criminal complaint. The damage from the derailment amounted to $700,000, according to the Justice Department.

After the derailment, Moreno told police and FBI agents that he was suspicious of the Mercy and that believed it had an alternate purpose related to Covid-19 or a government takeover. He also said “he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up,’” according to the government.

“You only get this chance once,” Moreno told California Highway Patrol officer Dillon Eckerfield, who was at the scene of the crash, according to court papers. “The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”

In an interview with LA Port Police, Moreno said he acted alone, that he knew his actions would bring news media attention and that he had not planned the crash, which prosecutors characterized as an “attempted attack.”

A video of the crash reviewed by LA Port Police shows Moreno in the train’s cab holding a lighted road flare and flipping his middle finger to the security camera, prosecutors said.

“Sometimes you just get a little snap and man, it was fricking exciting,” Moreno said, according to the affidavit. “I just had it and I was committed. I just went for it, I had one chance.”

Moreno's lawyer didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on his client's guilty plea.

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