Eduardo Moreno is a California man and train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles who is accused of intentionally derailing his locomotive and trying to crash into the USNS Mercy, a Naval ship brought to San Pedro to help with the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The 44-year-old Moreno admitted to running his train at a high rate of speed off the train tracks near the hospital ship, federal authorities said in a press release.
According to federal prosecutors, Moreno told FBI agents that he was concerned about why the hospital ship had really been brought to the Los Angeles area, saying he believed it could have been there as part of a plan for a government takeover or other COVID-19-related conspiracy theories. He was operating a Pacific Harbor Line train on Tuesday, March 31, according to the criminal complaint.
“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,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a statement. “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.”
Moreno was arrested after the incident and charged with train wrecking, a federal offense that carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. “Moreno was held overnight on local charges, and he was turned over to FBI agents this morning. Moreno is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court this afternoon,” federal prosecutors said on Wednesday, April 1.
Moreno and his family could not be reached for comment by Heavy, and it is not clear if he has hired or been appointed an attorney who could speak on his behalf. Moreno was charged under “18 USC 1992: Wrecking trains,” which makes it a federal offense to willfully derail or disable a train or engine used in interstate or foreign commerce by any railroad. According to court documents, the charge’s full title is terrorist attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems, and the FBI notes it is commonly known as train wrecking.
Here’s what you need to know about Eduardo Moreno and the incident:
1. Eduardo Moreno Told the FBI He Thinks the USNS Mercy Is ‘Suspicious’ & Did Not Believe It Is ‘What They Say It’s For’ & He Hoped the Train Crash Would ‘Wake People Up,’ Prosecutors Say
Eduardo Moreno, the train operator, was interviewed twice by FBI agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, who are leading the investigation, according to federal prosecutors. Moreno provided information about his motive and admitted to intentionally crashing the train, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Moreno told the agents he “did it,” according to prosecutors. He also said during the interview that he “was suspicious of the Mercy and believing it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover.” The train engineer told investigators he worked alone and did not pre-plan the “attempted attack.” Moreno said he knew it would bring media attention to the ship and said “people could see for themselves,” prosecutors said.
According to the press release, Moreno, in his second interview with the FBI, said his desire was to “wake people up” and again said he thought the Naval hospital ship was “suspicious” and he doesn’t think “the ship is what they say it’s for.”
In an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Douglas Swain, Moreno told the officer who arrested him, without provocation, statements such as, “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. At night, they turn off the lights and don’t let anyone in. I’m going to expose this to the world. When was the last time you went to Dodgers’ stadium? We might not be able to go again.”
In an interview with police, Moreno said he was not sick, but he had been watching what was going on with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the medical ship. He said he was “putting all the pieces together,” and “they are segregating us and it needs to be put in the open,” according to the affidavit. Moreno said he was “pushing” the last train car of his workday at the yard with his locomotive on March 31 when he started thinking about “everything” and “just kept going and going,” according to the affidavit.
Moreno told police, “I don’t know. Sometimes you just get a little snap and man, it was fricking exciting I just had it and I was committed. I just went for it, I had one chance.” He said “no one was pushing his buttons” to make him do it, according to the affidavit.
Moreno later told investigators he was trying to draw the world’s attention to the ship. He told agents, “I jumped the train off the tracks. I can’t wait to see the video I took the train off the end, I tried to get attention.”
2. The USNS Mercy Is Being Used to Help Relieve the Pressure on Los Angeles-Area Hospitals & Not to Treat Coronavirus Patients
The USNS Mercy has been in the Port of Los Angeles since March 27, the Orange County Register reported. The ship is not being used to treat COVID-19 patients but instead to help free up local hospitals that are treating coronavirus patients. The first patients were brought aboard the ship on March 29, the Register reported. In a press release on March 29, the Department of Defense said:
While in Los Angeles, the ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care, including general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients.
The Mercy is manned for the mission by Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as more than 70 civil service mariners. Its primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare, officials said. The ship’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew for all the hard work they did to get us here and ready in such a short time,” Navy Captain (Dr.) John Rotruck, the Mercy Military Treatment Facility commanding officer, said in a statement on March 29. “Being able to accept our first patients is a true testament of the teamwork between Mercy, the Navy, the State of California, the county of Los Angeles, and the city and Port of L.A.”
Rotruck added, “The men and women embarked on board Mercy are energized, eager, and ready to provide relief to those in need.”
3. A Video Captured the Aftermath of the Train Crash, While the FBI Says Footage From Inside the Train Shows Moreno in the Cab ‘Holding a Lighted Flare’ With His Middle Finger Raised
A video taken by a witness shows the aftermath of the train crash near the San Pedro shipyard. The man who recorded the video mistakenly thought the train had been stolen after seeing the destruction caused by the derailment. The video can be watched above.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the crash was witnessed by a California Highway Patrol officer who then arrested Eduardo Moreno as he tried to flee from the scene. Federal prosecutors said:
The CHP officer who witnessed 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.’
According to the affidavit, the CHP motorcycle officer, Dillon Eckerfield, said he saw Moreno, wearing a bright yellow fluorescent-colored safety vest come forward from the cab of the train, jump off and run. He stopped him at gunpoint, according to investigators.
Federal prosecutors said Moreno was turned over by the CHP to the Los Angeles Port Police and was interviewed by officers with that department. He also allowed his home in San Pedro to be searched. “The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Port of Los Angeles Police are now leading the investigation,” prosecutors said in a press release.
According to prosecutors, “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.”
In the affidavit, the FBI wrote, “This video depicted Moreno operating the train then spontaneously lighting
a road flare inside of the train. Moreno then put the train in full speed and held his hand toward the camera with his middle finger raised. Moreno then held the flare outside of a window through impact. Based on Sgt. Clements’ review of the second video, it did not appear that Moreno attempted to pull back the throttles or engage the braking system.”
The Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to the scene, a spokesperson told The Daily Breeze on March 31. The crash happened about 12:30 p.m., Margaret Stewart told the newspaper. One car derailed near Harbor Boulevard and Swinford Street and a moderate fuel spill was discovered. A private cleaning company was brought in to help remove the fuel, the fire department said.
4. Moreno’s Wife Said in a GoFundMe Campaign for Her Husband, ‘Eddie Is Not Hurt Physically But Isn’t With Us at This Time’
In the aftermath of the train crash and Eddie Moreno’s arrest, his wife started a GoFundMe to ask for help for his family. Eddie Moreno is the father of two young sons, according to his Facebook profile. His wife wrote on the GoFundMe campaign page:
We need all the help we can get. If you can find it in your heart to give, any amount is appreciated more than you will ever know. My family will forever be indebted to you. Eddie is not hurt physically but isn’t with us at this time. I feel like my world has been turned upside down. Please share this with your friends and Eddies friends. Many of you know him and he would give anyone the shirt off his back. All the money raised will be to help him and us to get through this.
Another family member wrote on Facebook, “my brother and his fam are in need of help if you know my brother you’d know what a good hearted person and has fallen into some difficult times what ever you can give plz anything will help. Best believe bro I’ll do what I can for you no matter what.”
Moreno remains in federal custody. According to court documents, he made his first appearance before Magistrate Judge Michael Wilner on Apri 1. He was ordered temporarily detained with a mention hearing set for April 3 and his post-indictment arraignment set for May 7.
5. Eddie Moreno Is a San Pedro, California, Native, Who Has Worked for the Train Company for ‘Many Years’
According to his Facebook profile, Moreno is a San Pedro native and graduated from San Pedro Senior High School. Moreno lives in San Pedro with his wife and their two children, his social media profile shows. Details about his position at the Port of Los Angeles were not immediately available and the train company has not commented about the incident.
According to the FBI affidavit, Moreno has worked for the train company for “many years,” as an engineer. He was responsible for moving train cars using a locomotive.
Abundant Life Church of God in Torrance, California, tweeted a link to this story and wrote, “His family attends our church!” Abundant Life is affiliated with the Cleveland, Tennessee-based Church of God, a Pentecostal Christian denomination. Moreno’s Facebook profile does not reveal any information about his motive or political beliefs.
As of April 1, there have been more than 200 deaths statewide in California as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 10,000 confirmed cases across the state, according to state officials. On Facebook, just days before the incident involving her husband, Moreno’s wife updated her Facebook profile picture with a message in Spanish telling people to stay home because of COVID-19.
Her profile picture, showing a photo of her with Moreno and their two sons, says bluntly, “quedate en tu pinche casa,” which translates roughly to “stay in your f*cking house.” Below it the meme says, “un movimiento para parar el coronavirus,” or “a movement to stop the coronavirus.” When a Facebook friend responded, “A bit harsh don’t you believe?” Moreno’s wife replied, “yup! And ppl still don’t listen.” She added, “Fresh air has done us some good. Its just out the front door for us now. Throw the ball around then back to hibernation. Doing our part.”