LOS ANGELES (CN) — A train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles was arrested on federal charges after he intentionally crashed a locomotive near the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, believing it signaled a looming government takeover disguised as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Eduardo Moreno, a resident of San Pedro, ran a train off the tracks at high speed Tuesday afternoon, crashing through a series of barriers before coming to a stop just 250 yards from the Mercy.
No one at the port was injured in the crash and the Mercy was not damaged, prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the fire department cleaned a fuel spill from the wrecked locomotive.
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 filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Moreno told law enforcement he derailed and crashed the train near the naval ship because he was suspicious of its true purpose.
“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.”
Following the crash, the Los Angeles Port Police took Moreno into custody and searched his work locker and home. The agency is co-leading the investigation into Moreno’s actions along with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
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.”
Moreno later told the FBI he acted out of a desire to “wake people up” and because he didn’t believe it was supporting the region’s Covid-19 outbreak response, according to FBI agent Douglas Swain’s 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,’” the affidavit said.
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.
According to the affidavit, Moreno – who told law enforcement he has not contracted Covid-19 – was operating the last train car of the day and decided to barrel toward Mercy after being consumed with his thoughts.
“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 is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon.
According to prosecutors, the train wrecking charge alleged in the criminal complaint carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles combined form the largest container port in the United States.