SAN ANTONIO – James Matthew Bradley, Jr. appeared in court Monday to face a charge of transporting undocumented immigrants.
Bradley, Jr., 60, claims he drove from Laredo to San Antonio unaware that people were in his truck’s trailer until he heard banging and shaking in a Walmart parking lot.
When he opened the trailer’s doors, Bradley, Jr. saw people on the floor “like meat,” according to the criminal complaint released Monday. Ten migrants inside died and 29 others went to hospitals for treatment.
Bradley, Jr. said some of the migrants ran him over to escape. He claims he tried to help but did not call 911.
“No, I don’t buy that story,” Pedro Ramos, a San Antonio resident at the federal courthouse. “It was already set up.”
One victim from Aguascalientes, Mexico told authorities that he paid smugglers connected to the Zetas cartel $5,500 to carry him into Texas.
He crossed with 28 others on river rafts into Laredo. There, smugglers organized migrant groups with colored tape, then loaded them into dark trailers without air conditioning, food, or water, the complaint said. Migrants even took turns breathing through a hole in a wall.
Those strong enough made noise to get the driver’s attention but say he never stopped. Once Bradley did open the trailer, survivors also claim six black SUVs were there to pick people up.
The alleged smuggling operation did not surprise Ramos.
“It does not surprise me how organized they are,” Ramos said. “It’s a common fact. I had one family member who happened to be one and I know they made a lot of money.”
If convicted, Bradley, Jr. could get the death penalty or life in prison. He is due back in court Thursday.