Human smuggling suspect James Bradley could face death penalty, life in prison

Bradley: I 'noticed bodies lying on the floor like meat,' federal complaint says

By Adrian Garcia - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - A 60-year-old man could face the death penalty or life in prison in connection with the deaths of 10 people who were found in a broiling tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning on the city's Southwest Side.

James M. Bradley Jr. appeared Monday morning in federal court in San Antonio, where he was formally charged one count of transporting illegal aliens.

Bradley was handcuffed and wearing blue jail scrubs as U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Chestney explained the charge and possible consequences.

The suspect didn't speak about what happened Sunday.

Chestney scheduled another hearing Thursday.

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Four men and a woman are being treated at University Hospital. Their conditions range from good to critical, University Health System officials said.

Two others patients who were treated at University Hospital were discharged Sunday, officials said.

University Hospital is one of seven local hospitals that received patients from the incident.

Five patients admitted to San Antonio Military Medical Center remained in treatment Monday, Fort Sam Houston Army spokeswoman Elaine Sanchez said.

None of the patients admitted to various Baptist Health System hospitals in San Antonio have been discharged, spokeswoman Patti Tanner said. 

A federal complaint filed Monday alleges that Bradley "unlawfully transported aliens in violation of law, resulting in the death of ten of the aliens transported."

Bradley also faces a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

According to the complaint, a San Antonio police officer arrived shortly after midnight at the Walmart at 8538 Interstate 35 access road on the city's Southwest Side, for a call of a suspicious tractor-trailer in the back of the store's parking lot.

The officer found multiple people standing, laying and hanging around the rear of the trailer. He moved to the cab of the 18-wheeler to find Bradley inside the rear of the truck's camper, the complaint said.

Bradley was detained by the officer. The Department of Homeland Security special agents arrived at the scene, where they were notified by first responders that eight undocumented immigrants were found dead in and around the trailer.

THE WHOLE STORY

The agents were also advised that approximately 30 to 40 undocumented immigrants were injured and transported to local hospitals.

The suspect told the officer that he parked the 18-wheeler and exited the vehicle to urinate when he heard movement coming from the trailer, the complaint said.

He told the officer that he administered aid to multiple people after finding them inside, but later told the Homeland Security Investigation special agents that he called his fiance but did not call 911, the complaint said.

The fiancee, Darnisha Rose, told the Associated Press that Bradley called her from jail to say he didn't know that his truck was filled with 90 people.

Rose said Bradley didn't explain how the immigrants ended up inside his trailer without his knowledge.

She defended Bradley fiance as a good man, funny and warm, and that she doesn't believe he would have knowingly endangered the lives of dozens of immigrants.

The suspect told the agents that he was transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas, and was unaware of the contents and/or cargo inside the trailer, the complaint said.

Bradley was taken to SAPD headquarters to be interviewed by two HSI special agents. He agreed to speak with them after he waived his Miranda Rights by signing the statement of rights, the complaint said.

During the interview, Bradley said that he was "surprised when he was run over by "Spanish" people," and that's when he "noticed bodies just lying on the floor like meat," the complaint said.

Bradley said the purpose of his trip was to deliver the trailer he was hauling to Brownsville, and that his "boss sold the trailer to a person in Brownsville," the complaint said.

At some point during his travel, Bradley went to Laredo, Texas, to get his tractor-trailer washed and detailed at two separate truck stops, and later traveled to San Antonio from Laredo, the complaint said.

Bradley told HSI agents that he knew the "trailer refrigeration system didn't work and that four vent holes were probably clogged," and that no vehicles were there to pick up the passengers, the complaint said.

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However, in a media briefing early Sunday morning, police Chief William McManus said, "Checking the video from the store, we found a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer (who) survived the trip."

agarcia@ksat.com

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Copyright 2017 by KSAT. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.