• On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced Eduardo Moreno was arrested for trying to ram a locomotive into the USNS Mercy
  • Moreno claimed the ship was “suspicious” and believed the ship was possibly there for alternate reasons
  • The Mercy is one of the ships currently lending support to hospitals in areas greatly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that an apparent conspiracy theorist attempted to ram the USNS Mercy with a locomotive. Eduardo Moreno, 44, a train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles, was arrested Wednesday morning and charged for running his locomotive off the tracks at full speed towards the Mercy because he believed the ship was “suspicious.”

Moreno admitted to law enforcement officials in two separate interviews he intentionally tried to hit the Mercy with his locomotive, according to the criminal complaint. After running his train off the tracks, Moreno crashed through a series of barriers before coming to a rest more than 250 feet away from the Mercy. No one was injured during the incident, but the train did leak a substantial amount of fuel oil which did require hazardous material personnel to clean up.

The incident was witnessed by a California Highway Patrol officer who took Moreno into custody as he tried to flee the scene. After he was in custody, Moreno was said to have 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.”

Moreno was placed in the custody of the Los Angeles Port Police who conducted an interview obtained permission to search his residence. The ongoing investigation will be led by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Port of Los Angeles Police.

During his interview with Los Angeles Port Police, Moreno admitted he “did it.” Moreno claimed he was suspicious of the Mercy. He believed it was there for an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover. Moreno believed by crashing the locomotive into the Mercy that “people could see for themselves.” In a second interview with the FBI, Moreno said he wanted to “wake people up.” According to the affidavit, “Moreno stated that he thought that the U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship what they say it’s for.'”

Moreno was reportedly inside the locomotive’s cab with a lit flare in hand, according to the Los Angeles Post Police. Officials say they retrieved two videos from inside the cab. A video emerged on Twitter showing the aftermath. Twitter user, @SeahawkValdez, believed the train had been stolen.

Moreno is charged under “18 USC 1992: Wrecking trains,” which is a federal offense. “Whoever willfully derails, disables, or wrecks any train, engine, motor unit, or car used, operated, or employed in interstate or foreign commerce by any railroad; or
Whoever willfully sets fire to, or places any explosive substance on or near, or undermines any tunnel, bridge, viaduct, trestle, track, signal, station, depot, warehouse, terminal, or any other way, structure, property, or appurtenance used in the operation of any such railroad in interstate or foreign commerce, or otherwise makes any such tunnel, bridge, viaduct, trestle, track, signal, station, depot, warehouse, terminal, or any other way, structure, property, or appurtenance unworkable or unusable or hazardous to work or use, with the intent to derail, disable, or wreck a train, engine, motor unit, or car used, operated, or employed in interstate or foreign commerce.”

Moreno is facing the possibility of a fine and up to 20 years in prison. His wife started a Go Fund Me campaign that has so far received over $7,000. The Go Fund Me campaign, simply titled “We Need This,” claims to be raising funds to “help him and us to get through this.”

So what could make anybody think it is a good idea to derail a train to crash it into a Navy ship? While there has not bee a direct link announced at this time, the timing of the attack comes oddly enough at a time where online conspiracy theorists are spreading misinformation like wildfire. At the center of these online conspiracies is QAnon.

Countless QAnon groups have been spreading easily debunked but dangerous conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 outbreak. The basic summary is the pandemic is acting as a cover for something deeper. The conspiracy differs slightly depending on the group. The conspiracy claims President Donald Trump is using the COVID-19 pandemic to arrest a human trafficking, baby-eating, elitist cabal. The arrests claim to be for everyone from Tom Hanks to officials at the Vatican.

Supporters claim recent arrests of cartels and MS-13 members are somehow tied to over 100,000 sealed indictments. Over the past three years, QAnon followers have falsely claimed these indictments were being unsealed numerous times, mainly because there are no sealed indictments. Metabunk did a thorough debunking of the sealed indictments claim that points to QAnon “researchers” simply not understanding how to use Pacer. Some in QAnon groups even claim the predicted number of COVID-19 deaths β€” between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans at best β€” are actually people that are being arrested from Trump unsealing the indictments.

The naval ships coming to assist bigger city hospitals were quickly thrown into the conspiracies. Some believe the ships will be used to hold prisoners arrested for human trafficking. Those prisoners will then be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for their crimes. Both theories claim trafficked children are being rescued from underground tunnels, a blatant lie often claimed by conspiracy theorist and fugitive Timothy Charles Holmseth. Holmseth claims to work for Trump in the “Pentagon pedophile Task Force,” a task force that does not exist. Some have gone as far as to say recent earthquakes were not earthquakes. Instead, the vibrations felt were the underground trafficking tunnels being destroyed. There is no supporting evidence of this claim outside of word of mouth and blogs from other QAnon followers.

The other theory is the ships are there to help the children rescued from these underground tunnel systems. The children will be removed from the tunnels and taken directly to the ships for medical care. That theory seems to be more popular with the QAnon crowd. Below you can read some related tweets.

USNS Mercy Locomotive

In reality, the naval ships are there to help city hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots. They are not taking COVID-19 patients, which adds ammo to the conspiracy theorists who do not understand their purpose. The ships are there to take the stress off local hospitals by handling issues not related to COVID-19. This way hospitals can focus their resources towards dealing with the more important pandemic at hand.

While law enforcement officials have not directly connected Moreno’s action to any groups β€” and he told officials he acted alone β€” it is not hard to see where his theories and suspicions over the Mercy quite possibly originated. Over the past few months, two different custody-related kidnapping cases have been linked to QAnon. Last year the group was placed on the FBI’s watch list for possible domestic terrorism.

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