Smuggling survivors took turns breathing through hole in hot truck

The United States Attorney's Office released paperwork Monday detailing the tragic events in a smuggling incident that ended in at least ten deaths.

As new details emerge, a story of a harrowing journey spurred along by notorious Mexican criminal syndicate, Los Zetas, is beginning to evolve.

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The journey ended for many in a southwest-side Walmart parking lot. An employee of the chain alerted police to a tractor-trailer in the back of the parking lot after discovering multiple people on it in need of help.

Upon arrival, police found the driver of the truck, James Mathew Bradley, Jr., exiting the air-conditioned camper of the 18-wheeler. Bradley told police he didn’t know what was on the truck and said he had only been transporting it from Iowa. He told officers he heard movement in the truck after pulling into the Walmart parking lot and began to investigate.

The responding officer detained Bradley before taking a look in the back of the truck himself.

What he found was eight dead undocumented aliens and another 30-40 who in need of immediate medical attention. 

Back at SAPD headquarters, HSI Special Agents initiated an interview with Bradley, who maintained that he did not know what was on the truck until opening the back in the Walmart parking lot. He said he was startled to find “Spanish people” in the back and said he noticed “bodies just lying on the floor like meat.”

Bradley told investigators he knew at least one person was dead.

Bradley told police he did not call 9-1-1 but did call his wife.

Bradley told police no cars or individuals were waiting at the Walmart for the people inside the tractor-trailer he was towing.

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The document also included an interview with a survivor of the incident described only as JMM-J.

JMM-J told investigators that he left his home in Aguascalientes, Mexico, traveled to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas and met with smugglers who offered to transport him to the U.S. for $5,500.

JMM-J said he was waiting with a group of 28 when a smuggler associated with the Zetas told him he would charge 11,000 Mexican pesos for protection and 1,500 Mexican pesos to cross by raft into the U.S. JMM-J said he paid the amount and the group was ferried over in three trips.

The next day JMM-J said he and the others were picked up and taken to board the tractor trailer. He estimated that about 70 people were inside when they took off. 

JMM-J said the door was closed and it became pitch black inside. He said it was already hot and they were left with no food or water before the journey began. He said they began to make noise and try to get help, but nobody ever came.

About an hour later around 9 p.m., someone opened the door and provided the group with different colors of tape to identify which group of smugglers they should be with. The man told them the trailer had refrigeration and not to worry.

But JMM-J said that it was very hot and after an hour of transport it became difficult to breathe in the trailer and people began to pass out. Despite their struggle to get the drivers attention by banging on the walls, JMM-J said he never pulled over.

They eventually found a hole in the tractor-trailer and started taking turns breathing through it.

JMM-J said that the driver finally stopped and those who were able began to swarm out to six black SUVs that were waiting on them at the location.

He said the SUVs filled up within minutes and then took off.

A second individual, A.L.V., told investigators he came over with a group of seven distant relatives. He told investigators he waited 11 days in a Laredo stash house to make the trip. When his group arrived at the tractor-trailer, he said 70 people were already on it and it was very hot.

Another individual told investigators he thought there were 180-200 people in the tractor-trailer.

The document states that two of the people taken to the hospital later died and numerous others were found to be in critical condition.

July 24, 2017 - Criminal complaint against James Matthew Bradley Jr.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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