Julio Rodriguez was released from jail this month, and on the very same day, he got the bright idea of sneaking into The Union Pacific Railroad station to steal a locomotive. When he was caught, police discovered Rodriguez seated in the engineer’s position of a train, already having pushed enough buttons and pulled enough levers to propel it into motion. He had managed to release both brake levers.
Employees at the Union Pacific railroad first heard a train horn blowing repeatedly and went to the area to investigate. There, they found the 20-year-old attempting to operate the engine and immediately contacted authorities. Rodriguez had apparently activated the horn despite having no prior training.
Rodriguez was removed from his position, and when officers took a closer look, they noticed he had successfully put the train in reverse. All he would have had to do at that point is engage the gear and apply the throttle and the engine would have begun to move along the track.
Jeff DeGraff, a Union Pacific Spokesperson said of the discovery, “One of our persons working in the yard noticed that an individual was not wearing the proper safety gear that would be necessary for someone to operate a locomotive, and that was the first thing that tipped him off.” He went on to say that, of course, it is highly concerning that just anyone could take to the controls.
“We’re dealing with a very large piece of equipment, not to mention the cargo that they’d be carrying at the time and if someone were to access it without authorization, and specifically, the training necessary, you could see something where a collision might occur,” said DeGraff. “What he was able to accomplish was not necessarily going to put anyone in danger at that moment. Certainly, had it gone on any further, there’s no telling what he may have been able to accidentally do.”
According to court documents, Rodriguez told authorities that he had no prior training, but nevertheless, decided to hop on board where he began to read and follow instructions about how to get the engine to move. He was only one pedal away from doing so. He told police that he indeed had wanted to steal the train, despite advising he did not even know where the tracks led.
Not only had Rodriguez almost succeeded in stealing one train worth $500,000, but it was attached to another locomotive, so he was ultimately charged with burglary and two counts of theft of a means of transportation, after initially facing four felony charges. The crime for which Rodriguez had just been released involved charges of criminal damage.
Fortunately, Rodriguez was caught before any harm was done to anyone working near the tracks that day or any bystanders to the incident. Union Pacific said the company will review access points and procedures to ensure that it’s more difficult to hijack its equipment in the future.
As for Rodriguez, now that he’s been caught again, once behind bars, it’s likely he won’t be released again for a very long time.