A train engineer rammed a locomotive engine through multiple barriers at the end of the tracks in the Port of Los Angeles on Tuesday, charging at full speed toward the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy, which arrived at the port last week to help with the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A California Highway Patrol officer who witnessed the crash initially took Eduardo Moreno, 44, into custody as he fled the scene and handed him over to Los Angeles Port Police, the US Attorney’s Office of the Central District of Florida said in a statement.
“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 federal affidavit for his arrest reads, referring to an interview with FBI agents.
The 1,000-bed Mercy arrived in Los Angeles on Friday to help the city deal with the influx of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Mercy’s mission is to take patients other than COVID patients to ease pressure on land-based hospitals. Mercy’s sister ship, USNS Comfort, arrived in New York on Monday with the same mission.
The Pacific Harbor Line train engine came to a stop 250 yards from Mercy. No one was injured, and the ship was not harmed, ABC7 reported.
The CHP officer who saw the crash said he saw “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.
Moreno told him, he said, “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 the custody of port police, Moreno admitted he “did it” alone, the affidavit says, because he was convinced the Mercy’s mission had nothing to do with COVID-19. “People will see for themselves,” he reportedly said.
The affidavit says that Moreno told FBI agents on Wednesday that “he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up,’” according to the affidavit, and that he thought the ship had something to do with a government takeover.
The US Attorney’s Office also said that port police reviewed video from the locomotive’s cab that 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.” In a second video, Moreno is seen holding a “in the cab holding a lighted flare.”
Moreno faces 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
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