Early Sunday morning, around midnight, a Walmart employee in San Antonio, Texas called 911 because several people in the parking lot of the store needed help. When police showed up, eight people were found dead inside a semi trailer truck. As of Monday morning, two more people died, The New York Times reports. Police say the victims were undocumented immigrants who were being smuggled across the border.
For his involvement in human trafficking, the driver of the truck has been arrested and could be facing the death penalty or life in prison. But the driver, 60-year-old James M. Bradley Jr., claims he had no idea what he was hauling in the first place.
Bradley told police officers that he was simply hired to be a driver and was supposed to drop off the contents at a pre-determined destination.
— KSAT 12 (@ksatnews) July 24, 2017
Aside from those that were found dead in the truck, police found another 29 people. Several immigrants are in critical condition, with many of them suffering from dehydration and heat exposure. Temperatures in San Antonio this month have reached over 100 degrees.
The driver told police that when he initially opened the door to the truck (after he heard banging coming from the back), roughly 30 to 40 people that were inside fled the scene. The undocumented immigrants interviewed by police said that many more people had been loaded into the truck at various spots near around Laredo, Texas. At one point, as many as 200 people were inside the truck.
As of now, Bradley is the only person charged for this horrendous crime, but officials say more arrests will be made.
Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood briefing on tractor trailer found with multiple deceased after being smuggled inside. 8538 IH35S
Posted by San Antonio Police Department on Sunday, July 23, 2017
“Checking the video from the store, we found there were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip,” Police Chief William McManus said, according to CNN. “The driver and whoever else we find is involved in this will be facing state and federal charges.”
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said that the human smugglers had to pack the truck with hundreds in order to “maximize their criminal profits.”
— ICE (@ICEgov) July 24, 2017
“Human smugglers have repeatedly demonstrated that they have absolutely no regard for human life,” Homan said in a press release. “Our ICE agents and officers, working closely with our law enforcement partners, will pursue these smugglers and bring them to justice.”
Richard L. Durbin, Jr. U.S Attorney for the Western District of Texas, released a statement calling the human-traffickers “ruthless.”
“The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters. Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus degree heat. The driver is in custody and will be charged. We will work with the Homeland Security Investigations and the local responders to identify those who were responsible for this tragedy.”
Polaris, a non-profit that works to curb human trafficking, reports that in 2016, cases of human trafficking increased by 35%.
— Bettie Cross (@BettieCrossTV) July 24, 2017
In Texas alone, out of 300,000 victims of human trafficking, almost 80,000 of them are minors.