A Texas trucker driver who smuggled at least 39 people in an unventilated trailer in 100-degree heat, leading 10 to die, will spend the rest of his life in prison, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
San Antonio police officers stumbled onto one of the deadliest cases of human smuggling in recent U.S. history last July, when they encountered James Matthew Bradley Jr.’s trailer parked outside a Walmart. Stuffed inside were dozens of undocumented immigrants, including four children, as well as the bodies of eight people who’d died of heat exposure and asphyxiation. Another two people later died at nearby hospitals.
Bradley’s truck has since been dubbed “el camion de la muerte,” or the truck of death.
“Today’s sentencing of James Matthew Bradley, Jr., brings some closure to a truly horrific and unnecessary tragedy that involved exploiting human cargo for pure greed,” Shane Folden, a Department of Homeland Security agent who led the investigation in San Antonio, said in a statement. “Not only were 10 lives lost, but many more were injured as a result of Bradley’s participation in this illegal scheme.”
The people who survived the trailer said that at one point between 70 and 200 people were crammed inside, according to court records. Still, Bradley initially told investigators that he had no idea that there were people in his truck until he stopped at the Walmart.
Under federal law, people who smuggle “illegal aliens” into the United States may be put to death if any of the people they’re transporting die. But the feds announced last September that they would not seek the death penalty for Bradley, who ultimately pled guilty in October to one count of transporting immigrants which resulted in death and one count of conspiracy to commit the same crime.
Cover image: The parking lot of a Walmart, where a truck trailer was found with 8 deceased immigrants early in the morning, is seen on July 23, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. Eight people were found dead inside a truck in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas in what police said appeared to be 'human trafficking crime.' Another 28 people were injured -- 20 of them severely -- and were being treated at seven local hospitals, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)