Eight people have been found dead after they were locked up in the back of a semi-truck without air conditioning or water in what police believe was most likely a human trafficking incident.
All in all 38 people were found in the truck, and one was found in the woods. The truck had no working air conditioning system despite acrid temperatures topping 100 degrees in San Antonio.
One didn;t make it and died at the hospital, which knocked up the death toll to nine. The driver of the truck, who is identified as James Mathew Bradley Jr, a 60-year-old from Clearwater, Florida, is now in police custody.
All of the people discovered in the tractor-trailer were found early Sunday morning after one of the group members approached a Walmart worker in the store parking lot and asked fro a cup of water. The employee gave the person the water and then contacted the police, and when officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the eight people – all men – dead in the back of the trailer.
Investigators looked into the store surveillance video, which revealed that other vehicles had come at different times to pick up others who had been in the trailer, as if they were being sold.
The Police Chief said:
‘We’re looking at a human trafficking crime this evening.’ He even labeled the whole disgusting discovery as ‘a horrific tragedy’.
The police chief went on to say that the Department of Homeland Security has linked up to the investigation to figure out what was going down with the truck.
ICE also released a statement about the incident on Sunday afternoon, saying the deaths are a ‘stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished.
‘These networks have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for those they smuggle, as last night’s case demonstrates. The men and women of ICE are proud to stand alongside our law enforcement partners, including locally and at the U.S. Department of Justice, to combat these smuggling networks and protect the public and those who would fall victim to their dangerous practices that focus solely on their illicit profits.’
The city’s fire chief, Charles Hood, also added that the rescuers were quick to get patients out of the back of the truck, saying:
‘We had another 20 patients that were either in extremely critical condition or very serious condition and they have been transported to a number of hospitals. They were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water.’
Police said Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been notified. Authorities will file a criminal complaint against the arrested Bradley in federal court in San Antonio on Monday morning, the Department of Homeland Security and the US District Attorney’s office said in a joint statement.
‘At this time, investigators are making efforts to identify the victims and will seek to notify family and next of kin. Officials will not release the identities or alienage of victims until relatives can be notified…’
The National Weather Service’s local office said the temperature in San Antonio hit 101 degrees just before 5pm on Saturday and did not fall back below 90 until after 10pm. Other cases of human trafficking in the United States have led to more deaths.
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