Engineer goes off the rails in alleged aim for Mercy

Man crashes train

A Los Angeles train engineer was arrested Wednesday for allegedly derailing a locomotive near the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy - believing a conspiracy theory that the government is covering up the vessel's true goal, federal authorities said.

According to an affidavit, he said he thought his act would bring media attention and "people could see for themselves", referring to the Mercy.

Eduardo Moreno, 44, told law enforcement investigators he was "suspicious" of the ship and believed it "had an alternate objective related to COVID-19 or a government takeover", the Justice Department said in a news release, citing the affidavit. "I just went for it, I had one chance".

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 objective related to COVID-19 or a government takeover, the affidavit states. Similar to the USNS Comfort deployed recently to New York City, the USNS Mercy is helping to ease the impact to local hospitals that are surging with COVID-19 cases.

The CHP officer, who was not identified, described watching "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".

A Pacific Harbor Line locomotive engineer allegedly was suspicious of the USNS Mercy's mission at the Port of LA.

Admitting to driving the train off its rails and toward the water, the engineer said that "he did it out of the desire to 'wake people up, ' " the U.S. Attorney's Office says, citing an affidavit filed along with the criminal complaint. "The tracks are nowhere near the Mercy". According to a court affidavit, 44-year-old Eduardo Moreno told investigators that he intentionally derailed the train at full speed because he thought the USNS Mercy might be there as part of a government takeover, not to help with the coronavirus crisis, ABC reports. A second video shows Moreno in the cab holding a lit flare.

The incident is being investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Port of Los Angeles Police.

If convicted, Moreno could face up to 20 years in federal prison. The engineer of the train has been arrested and charged and we are fully cooperating with all authorities as they proceed with their investigation.

The incident unfolded Tuesday when the train crashed through a series of barriers and fences before coming to rest more than 250 yards (230 meters) from the Mercy on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a release.

Sanfield said the Port of LA did not have a cost estimate for repairs but called the damage minimal.

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