Trucker charged with human trafficking deaths may face death penalty

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At least 10 people have died as part of a human smuggling operation discovered in San Antonio, Texas, Saturday night in which 39 undocumented immigrants were found in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer. Though the incident appears to be an attempt to smuggle migrants into the U.S., the local police have said it is being considered a human trafficking crime.

The driver of the truck, 60-year-old James Mathew Bradley, Jr., of Clearwater, Fla., was charged Monday morning with transporting immigrants in the United States illegally, resulting in the deaths of 10 people  – a charge that carries the possibility of the death penalty, according to the Associated Press.

According to AP’s report, the complaint filed in court Monday morning alleges Bradley drove the truck packed full of immigrants for “commercial advantage of private financial gain.”

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said in a statement Saturday night that a truck was parked outside of a Walmart store in San Antonio when his department received a call from a Walmart employee that someone from the truck approached them asking for water.

McManus said when SAPD arrived on the scene, they found eight victims dead in the trailer. A ninth person was found Sunday morning in the woods near the store who later died in a hospital. San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said in the press conference a total of 38 people were found in the trailer, ranging in age from school-age children to adults in their 20s and 30s. That number increased to 39 when the ninth deceased victim was found.

The Associated Press reported Monday morning that a 10th person had died as a result of the conditions they were in inside the trailer.

“We started extricating patients out of the back of a semi-truck,” Hood said. “The air conditioning was not working, so everyone was removed. During that time, we had eight patients that were deceased, and another 20 that were either in extremely critical condition or very serious condition.”

The 30 people found alive in the trailer were transported to area hospitals, Hood added. He said they “were very hot to the touch” and “were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water.”

Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan said based on interviews with survivors, more than 100 people could have been packed into the trailer. Surveillance footage from the Walmart store reportedly showed cars coming and picking up some of the immigrants.

McManus added that after the immigrants were treated for heat stroke and dehydration, they would then be investigated by ICE.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas said all of the deceased are adult males.

According to a report from The Washington Post, the Bradley was working for Pyle Transportation out of Schaller, Iowa. Company owner Brian Pyle told the Post that Bradley was an owner-operator and that it “was his very first trip” for his company.

McManus said in the Saturday night press briefing he didn’t think there was any cargo in the trailer with the victims. The full press briefing can be seen below: