When police were called to the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart in July 2017, nothing could’ve prepared them for what they saw.
A tractor-trailer parked in the lot had a terrifying surprise in the container. A total of 39 undocumented immigrants were inside, with evidence that they’d been transported in dire conditions. Temperatures in the trailer were believed to have reached 100 degrees.
The driver was James Matthew Bradley Jr., a 61-year-old trucker who claimed he didn’t know about the human cargo he was transporting until he heard the inhabitants of his trailer making noise during a stop. A Walmart employee first realized something was amiss when one exhausted individual came up to him asking for water.
According to reports, people poured out of the trailer when it was opened. Some escaped into SUVs which seemed to be waiting in the lot to pick them up. Those who remained noted that there had been 200 people in the container at one point from Mexico.
The most horrifying part of the whole ordeal was that eight people in the trailer were already dead when they were found. Two more passed away after being transported to a local hospital.
Inside the trailer was a small hole where immigrants had taken turns gathering around to breathe during the trip. There were also traces of fecal matter and vomit in the corners, further showing just how gruesome the trip must’ve been for those inside.
Bradley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death. The driver was also discovered to have a long criminal history with charges of menacing and third-degree assault. While his defense attorney hoped to lessen his sentence by noting how Bradley’s testimony helped authorities bring charges against another smuggler in the ring, the court didn’t show mercy.
Bradley was handed a life sentence for his part in the deaths of the ten individuals. His case shows just how much of a problem human trafficking still is and how those who undertake the task have little to no regard for human life.
The trucking industry is unfortunately associated with this type of crime, as the high-capacity vehicles they use make it easy to move human cargo across borders. The group Truckers Against Trafficking was founded by drivers and trucking managers to help those in their line of work identify the signs of trafficking and to educate them on how to report these sightings to the proper authorities.
As for the trucking company that employed the man, they have a history of legal troubles of their own. They’ve been in trouble with the law previously for violating rules and refusing to pay fines. The carrier was issued an “out-of-service” order by federal authorities and a compliance review is under way.
Management says they had no knowledge of Bradley’s actions. As for how he weighs in, he’s issued an apology and says he thinks about the incident every day and night.