SAPD: Dozen immigrants rescued from semi trailer on East Side

Two women found crying outside trailer, according to SAPD

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter, Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A dozen immigrants were rescued from the back of a semi-truck trailer on Dec. 23, according to San Antonio Police Department records released to the KSAT 12 Defenders Wednesday.

An SAPD officer working patrol was flagged down by someone who had called 911 to report a trailer with "individuals in it" parked in the 3500 block of Copeland Drive, according to an SAPD report.

The officer followed the person to the parked 18-wheeler and saw two women crying outside the tractor-trailer and people going in and out of it.

An SAPD spokesperson said there were 12 immigrants from Guatemala, Mexico and other countries. The oldest was 41 and the youngest was 16. She would not say where they are now. 

"We don't want to jeopardize the investigation or their safety. In this case, they are victims," said Sgt. Michelle Ramos, SAPD spokesperson. 

The truck's driver and a passenger seated up front were both taken into custody and at first denied knowing anything about the people in the trailer, the report states.

All of the immigrants, whose names were redacted in the report, were given food and water and listed in good condition, according to the report.

The driver, listed as 58-year-old Herbert Nichols, later admitted to detectives that he had picked up the immigrants from a warehouse in Laredo and had brought them to east San Antonio to be picked up, the report states.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was there that day, but this isn't a federal case.

"We are handling this case. We have a state statute that allows us to handle cases of human smuggling," Ramos said.

Nichols faces a felony charge of smuggling persons. If convicted, he faces two to 10 years in prison. He remains in custody at the Bexar County Jail on a $75,000 bond, a jail official confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

The driver's passenger was released, but she is still under investigation and could be arrested later, police said.

The discovery of the trailer comes about six months after ten immigrants died after being trapped in a tractor-trailer found in a Southwest Side Walmart parking lot.

RELATED: Truck driver pleads guilty in fatal human smuggling operation

The driver of that truck, James M. Bradley Jr., pleaded guilty to federal charges in October and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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