Truck Deaths: Driver Says He Didn't Know He Carried People

James M. Bradley Jr. charged with transporting immigrants in US illegally
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2017 11:54 AM CDT
Texas Truck Deaths: Driver Could Face Death Himself
James Mathew Bradley Jr., left, arrives at the federal courthouse for a hearing, Monday, July 24, 2017, in San Antonio. Bradley was arrested in connection with the deaths of multiple people packed into a broiling tractor-trailer.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The tragedy is extreme—now 10 people dead after being contained in a stiflingly hot tractor-trailer parked at a San Antonio Walmart—and so too is the potential sentence for James M. Bradley Jr. In advance of his Monday appearance in federal court, the 60-year-old driver of the truck was charged with transporting immigrants in the US illegally—a charge that could carry the death penalty, reports the AP. The San Antonio Express-News explains that the law allows the penalties to be elevated when a human smuggling operation ends in death. The latest:

  • The victims: The Express-News reports all the casualties are adult males.
  • The ordeal: The federal complaint says the immigrants' destination via the truck was San Antonio, and that breathing issues set in about an hour in. The passengers reportedly took turns breathing through a hole in the pitch-black trailer and pounded on its walls in a futile attempt to get Bradley's attention. The AP notes that San Antonio sits about 150 miles from the border.
  • Bradley's story: He says he had no idea there were people in the truck, per court docs that quote a Homeland Security Investigations agent. Bradley says he got out at Walmart to use the bathroom, heard the banging, opened the door, "and was surprised when he was run over by 'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground." He told authorities the trailer had been sold and his boss asked him to drive it from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas.
  • What Bradley said in court: Nothing, per the AP. He faces another hearing Thursday.

  • More to prosecute: Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan earlier said the truck likely picked up the illegal immigrants once they were in the US, reports the AP. "Even though they have the driver in custody, I can guarantee you there's going to be many more people we're looking for to prosecute," he said.
  • Similar case: The tragedy calls to mind another from 2003, in which 19 people died inside a truck in Texas. The Washington Post looks back at all the steps leading to that disaster. Temperatures inside the trailer hit 173 degrees.
  • Words of comfort, outrage: The Express-News rounds up statements from a slew of prominent Texans.
  • Two cents: The Express-News editorial board weighs in: "Imagine if there were a functional—legal—mechanism for such immigrants to come here. ... The current system is broken. ... The laws, as currently enforced, set a premium on punishing the immigrants but leaving employers virtually alone. ... Comprehensive reform could fix all this. Yet, Congress is more interested in punishment than fixes," they writing, citing recent sanctuary city-related moves.
  • So what is happening at the border? Apprehensions are sharply down, and have been trending down for five months, reports USA Today: 21,659 people got sent back or were arrested along the US-Mexico border last month, which is less than half of what we saw a year prior. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly attributed the drop to President Trump's policies and rhetoric.
(More human trafficking stories.)

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