Human Trafficking is a serious problem and crime in America.
Imagine for a second, you are one of the humans being transported from Mexico to America. You are squished inside of a tractor-trailer with no air conditioning or functioning ventilation.
Now imagine that same trailer traveling through the scorching summer heat across Texas. Imagine it being 100-plus degrees. Again, remember there’s no working air conditioner. It’s stifling. Your suffocating and people around you are dying like flies. You’re helpless because your life is in the hands of your transporters and they only care about making money, not the conditions under which you are traveling.
A truck driver is in federal custody after police found 38 people – including eight men who had died and 30 men, women and children who were suffering from heat-related illness – in his trailer in the parking lot of a Walmart in San Antonio, Texas, in a human smuggling operation turned tragic, authorities say. One additional victim, also a man, later died at a local hospital, bringing the death toll to nine.
James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, has been identified as the driver by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
“San Antonio firefighters and police responded to a horrific scene this morning on the southwest side of town. They discovered an alien smuggling venture gone horribly wrong. Eight immigrants were found dead. At least twenty more were in serious condition. All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo,” said Richard Durbin, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, in a statement.
The fire department said in a statement they were called to the parking lot of the Walmart at 8358 IH-35 South about 12:30 a.m. Sunday after a report of “multiple people in the trailer portion of an 18 wheeler. First arriving units found a number of people in the back of this trailer all in varying degrees of medical distress.”
More than two dozen victims were found alive, some fighting for their lives, and they were taken to seven San Antonio-area hospitals, fire officials said. Of those victims, 17 were transported with life-threatening injuries and 13 had injuries or illness that was not immediately life-threatening.
The victims, who have not been identified, include two school-age children who survived, along with adults in their 20s and 30s. Demographic information about who was inside the truck, including their ages, sex and birthplace, was not immediately available Sunday afternoon. They are believed to have died as a result of heat exposure/asphyxiation, police said.
A 39th person was found in the woods near the scene later Sunday and was taken to the hospital.
Some of the victims said they were from Mexico, Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan told the Associated Press. Homan said there were believed to have been more than 100 people inside the truck at one point, according to interviews with survivors.
Police were called to the Walmart about 12:30 a.m. by an alert employee.
Police took the driver, identified by the Express-News as James Bradley, into custody at the scene, while firefighters rushed to provide aid to the victims, using a triage system. The truck is believed to have been opened by the driver, Bradley, or someone else, prior to police arriving, McManus said, which allowed the person to seek help from the Walmart employee.
“We treated it kind of like you would an airline crash or other major incident. Each one of those persons has a number and a tag, we’re going to have to reconcile who they are and their sexes and all of those things,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters.
Police searched Sunday for anyone who might have fled from the truck and was in need of help in the surrounding area, but it does not appear that anyone was found.
Fire Chief Charles Hood said at a press conference Sunday morning that the victims inside the truck likely would not have survived much longer. They were “very fortunate” that there were not 38 people “who were all locked inside the vehicle who were dead,” Hood said.
“Our paramedics and firefighters found that each one of them had heart-rates over about 130 beats-per-minute, which again they were very hot to the touch,” Hood said of the survivors. “These people were in that trailer without any signs of any type of water, so you are looking at a lot of heat stroke, lot of dehydration. As Chief McManus mentioned, we do have at least two school-aged children.”
The truck “was loaded with people,” Hood said. He told CNN, “Unfortunately, some of them were severely overheated, and that was a refrigerated truck with no refrigeration. So the inside of the truck was just austere condition that nobody was going to survive in it. So we were very fortunate that they were found because if they would have spent another night in that environment, we would have 38 people who would not have survived.”
Here’s the video:
The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, with the Department of Homeland Security, specifically ICE, investigating, along with local authorities. James Bradley remains in custody and charges, including those related to human trafficking, are expected to be brought against him soon, the San Antonio Express-News reports. A federal complaint is expected to be filed Monday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the newspaper.
“We’re working on a complaint right now. He’s in custody and he will be charged,” U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin said.
Bradley will likely appear in federal court Monday after the complaint is filed. He is being held at a federal detention facility in San Antonio.
What a horrible tragedy! These perps involved in this were just out to make a quick buck. They had absolutely no human feelings whatsoever about the conditions that these humans were being transported under, nor did they care. They only cared about the buck they made! They treated these humans worse than a truckload of hogs going to market.