10 Dead among more than 100 Smuggled in Tractor Trailer
July 23, 2017, A Wal-Mart worker called 911 after encountering a person asking for water and help. San Antonio police responded and discovered a tractor trailer in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in southwest San Antonio.
In the back of the trailer, police discovered 39 migrants from Mexico and other south American countrie, 8 of then dead, more in critical condition. Eventually the death toll rose to 10.
The driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., was immediately placed in custody on suspicion of human trafficking.
Bradley claimed he had no idea there were people in his trailer, nor did he know how they got into the trailer. He claims he stopped at Wal-Mart to use their bathroom and when he returned, he noticed the trailer rocking and when he opened the doors, a “flood of spanish people” overwhelmed him.
Most rigs of this type have a gauge on the dash to give the driver an idea of the weight on his drive axles. With 100 persons in the trailer, that would put an approximate 12,000 pounds of weight on the truck which would be noticable to the driver. 200 people would double that. Bradley definitely knew what was going on because he went to Laredo looking for the opportunity.
Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., was charged under a federal law against knowingly transporting people who are in the country illegally — a law that provides for a prison sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole or the death penalty, if the crime results in a death.
Where the rubber meets the road
According to Bradley, an independent owner operator (we think), he was assignedby his employer, Pyle Transportation of Schaller Iowa, to take an empty trailer from Iowa to Brownsville Texas where it had been bought by a Mexican business there. Bradley was aware the refrigeration unit on the trailer.
The most direct route from Schaller Iowa to Brownsville Texas would have taken Bradley nowhere near Laredo Texas. Yet according to Bradley, enroute to Brownsville, he went to Laredo Texas, 150 miles south of San Antonio to have his truck washed and detailed. For what reason? He initially passed through San Antonio where there are at least three truck washes without a miles radius of one another. There are people also there to detail interiors, polish exterior chrome and cater to any other needs the trucker may have. So why did he go to Laredo and return to San Antonio when again, that route was more miles out of route from his supposed destination.
So according to Bradley, he went to Laredo and had his truck washed at a Blue Beacon truck wash at exit 13 north of Laredo (There are two in San Antonio). The wash took about 20 minutes according to employees at the truck wash. Then, according to Bradley, he proceeded to the old Gateway truck stop at exit three in Laredo to have the detail work done.
The Gateway truck stop in Laredo is nothing like it was 30 years ago when it was the only truck stop in town and Laredo was much smaller than it is now. The Gateway now is nothing but a dive bar, mechanic services and a place where you can go for drugs, prostitutes and possibly hook up make some extra pocket money as Bradley apparently did.
Brian Pyle, Pyle Transportation owner ‘shocked and horrified’ at human smuggling case
Bradley was “leased” to a small mom and pop trucking company out of Schaller Iowa (pop. 772) According to Brian Pyle, one of the owners, this was James Bradley’s first trip with the company.
Company owner Brian Pyle said his small-town Iowa trucking company strives to serve customers safely and professionally, and what happened in Texas is unacceptable.
Pyle did not want to show his face on camera but said he and his family owned company had nothing to do with smuggling immigrants.
“It wasn’t my trailer,” Pyle said. “The trailer was sold. If I would have taken that name off, my name off the side of the trailer, you guys wouldn’t be standing here today. It had nothing to do with me.”
Pyle said he had limited interaction with him Bradley and only carried the insurance on his truck. Investigators however, said the truck had an Iowa license plate and was registered to Pyle Transportation based in Schaller, Iowa.
“He was all on his own,” Pyle said. “(Bradley) bought his own fuel (and) made his own decisions. He did everything.”
Pyle said his company is conducting an investigation because Bradley was supposed to be driving from Schaller, Iowa to Brownsville, Texas, and never should have been in this San Antonio Walmart parking lot.
“I never would have predicted he would do this,” Pyle said. “Never. Honestly, he was a nice guy.”
Pyle Transportation issued the following statement on behalf of Pyle Transportation:
“This driver was an independent contractor, and as an independent contractor, he secured a number of his own loads and made up his own work schedule.
“As an independent contractor with us, he did haul some of our loads, and we carried the insurance on his truck, which is a common independent contractor agreement, but our direct interaction with this driver was very limited because of his status as an independent contractor and very strict laws that outline the working relationship.
“We do not condone this behavior and are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, and this action is not reflective of the commitment we have as small, family owned trucking company to serve our customers in a safe and professional manner.
“We are as shocked and horrified as everyone else; this simply is not acceptable.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating Pyle Transportation.
The agency says its findings will be shared with Department of Homeland Security investigators, who are conducting a criminal investigation into the immigrants’ deaths.
However, photos on social media show Bradley wearing a Pyle Transportation tshirt in 2016 and in 2013 received a traffic citation that listed Pyle Transportation as his empoyer.
Somebody is lying here and it’s obvious who it is. Bradley and Pyle both making up stories to cover their butts.
Pyle has a long history of FMCSA violations and instances of not paying taxes and employee wages.
James Bradley Jr has extensive criminal record
Court records show that Bradley was arrested in 1997 in Arapahoe County, Colorado, on charges of felony menacing, menacing with a deadly weapon and third-degree assault. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to the felony menacing charge, and the others were dropped, records show. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years of probation.
The probation was revoked in 2003 and he was arrested a year later on a felony escape warrant while in Hillsborough County, Florida. He was also charged in Florida with grand theft, but the charge was dropped after he spent more than a month in jail. He was then extradited to Colorado, where he received one year in prison on the escape charge.
His probation was revoked again, in 2005, and he was again sent to prison in Colorado, court records show.
He has also been convicted of several driving offenses in various states, including speeding, being over weight on his axles, misuse of equipment and driving without evidence of financial responsibility (insurance), according to court records.
At the time of his arrest, Bradley’s CDL has been revoked in April due to an expired medical certificate. Bradley suffered from diabetes and had recently had a leg amputated and was using a prosthetic which could account for why he let his medical certificate expire. A person can hold a CDL with such a disability but only after going through a long waiver process with the FMCSA.
The “Death Truck”, a 1999 Customized Peterbilt
The truck Bradley was driving and was the alleged owner of is not your normal fleet truck. It is a customized 1999 Peterbilt 379 with major modifications meant to appeal to the truck show crowd and owner operators.
According to the builder, Bradley bought it in March of this year for $90,000.00, making a cash payment of $50,000.00 and securing two loans for the remaining $40,000.00. His payments were allegedly $2000.00 monthly.
Remembering that Brian Pyle tells us this was Bradley’s first trip with the company, it was learned that Bradley and another Pyle employee took a Pyle Transportation company truck to Wisconsin to pick up his new purchase.
How does a man with Bradley’s background have the wherewithall and the ability to amass $50,000.00 and the credit score necessary to secure two $20,000.00 loans for the balance? Did he have help? Was this one of those bogus lease to own deals he had with Pyle Transportation.
Following the money, sources inform us that the fee per head for hauling migrants through the checkpoint and on to San Antonio ranges from $300-500.00 per person. With 100 people on board his trailer, he would have realized a minimum of $30,000.00 and a maximum of $50,000.00 for a few hours work. Double that if the trailer was filled with 200 people as has been suggested. That would more than have paid off the note on the big rig.
Neighbors of his say the truck or one that looked identical sat in front of his house in Louisville Kentucky for a month before this incident.
However, Brian Pyle was quoted in an interview with WHO-TV as saying Bradley drove his personal vehicle from Kentucky to Iowa to pick up the truck to begin his final trip.
More questions than answers.
With Bradley facing the death penalty as the most severe punishment offered for this crime, I have a feeling he will be opening up to prosecutors and singing like a little birdy before too long if he hasn’t already.
Bradley has been assigned a federal public defender team as his defense.
While this incident made worldwide headlines for a few days, it’s apparently fallen out of favor. We predict in the coming days or weeks, Bradley will be implicating others in this tragedy and we’ll keep you posted.
This post is part of the thread: San Antonio Migrant Deaths – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.
35 years in the trucking business and living in Mexico for the past 15 years, make me uniquely qualified to offer my insight and opinion into the Mexican trucking industry and other border issues. A contributor to SiriuxXM Road Dog Channel 106 and to the award winning Lockridge Report, Mexico Trucker Online continues to publish the unvarnished truth about the subjects we cover.