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A Man Admitted To Trying To Crash A Train Into The USNS Mercy Over Coronavirus Suspicions

A train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles targeted the hospital ship because he thought it was "suspicious" and wanted to "wake people up," federal prosecutors said.

Posted on April 1, 2020, at 8:10 p.m. ET

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A man was arrested for allegedly intentionally derailing a train at full speed near the USNS Mercy, the hospital ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles, because he was suspicious over its ties to COVID-19 and a possible government takeover, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Eduardo Moreno is a train engineer who works at the port. The 44-year-old from San Pedro, California, told authorities in two separate interviews that he ran the train off the tracks at high speed, crashing through barriers, before stopping about 250 yards away from the ship.

The USNS Mercy docked at the port last week to relieve some of the strain on hospitals that are stretched thin caring for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The ship, which has 1,000 beds and can perform surgeries and other critical care, began treating non-COVID-19 patients Sunday.

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The operator told FBI agents that “he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up'" and "thought that the U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship is what they say it’s for,'” the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said.

A California Highway Patrol officer, who saw the crash and took Moreno into custody after he tried to flee, said the train smashed into a steel barrier, a chain-link fence, slid through a parking lot, then a gravel-filled lot, and crashed into another fence.

When the officer apprehended Moreno, he allegedly made a series of "spontaneous statements," prosecutors said in their statement, 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.”

Video from inside the train's cab shows Moreno inside and holding a lighted flare, prosecutors said. The engineer told authorities that he had not plotted the attack ahead of time and acted alone.

No one was injured in the crash, although the train did leak a "substantial amount of oil," officials said.

The Justice Department charged Moreno with one count of train wrecking, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.