Latest: 13 immigrants from truck held as potential witnesses
Jul. 26, 2017
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Latest on the deaths of 10 people whose bodies were found in a sweltering tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio (all times local):
U.S. authorities have detained 13 immigrants who were found inside a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio as potential witnesses in the criminal investigation.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Antonio said Wednesday that the 13 people are in federal custody.
The tractor-trailer was found Sunday in a Walmart parking lot. Ten people inside died. The driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., faces a human smuggling charge that carries the possibility of the death penalty.
The 13 potential witnesses who are in custody will be represented by attorney Michael McCrum. McCrum told The Associated Press that all of the people are expected to give depositions in August. Some may be released before any trial. He expects authorities to hold them at one of the immigrant detention facilities in the San Antonio area.
McCrum says he's concerned the detained passengers will "be treated as chips in a political game instead of real people."
The top Mexican diplomatic official in San Antonio says relatives of some of the passengers of a tractor-trailer packed with immigrants that was found in San Antonio didn't know their family members had left for the United States.
Ten immigrants who were on the trailer found Sunday in a Walmart parking lot have died. Dozens of others were injured. Most of the known passengers were from Mexico, including seven of the dead.
Reyna Torres Mendivil, the Mexican consul general for San Antonio, said Wednesday that government authorities are still working to notify families of the dead and injured.
Torres said Mexican authorities were helping passengers' relatives reach San Antonio. She said U.S. immigration authorities had assured her any relatives escorted by consular officials to visit still-hospitalized passengers would not be questioned about their legal status.
Twelve people remained hospitalized as of early Wednesday afternoon.
Officials say a 34-year-old Mexican citizen is among 10 immigrants who died after being inside a sweltering tractor-trailer found in San Antonio.
A spokesman for the Mexican town of Palo Alto, Aguascalientes, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Jose Rodriguez Aspeitia had worked in construction there. The spokesman says Aspeitia had apparently previously spent time in the United States before returning to the town of 6,000 and setting out on his most recent trip north.
Aspeitia was rescued from the tractor-trailer, but later died at a hospital.
A spokeswoman for the Mexican consulate in San Antonio says that Aspeitia was among seven Mexican citizens who died.
An Aguascalientes state government official at the consulate told AP that Aspeitia's family is driving north to San Antonio, hoping to cross the border on humanitarian grounds.
A detention hearing has been canceled for a truck driver charged in the deaths of 10 immigrants found inside his sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio.
Federal court records in San Antonio show the hearing that was originally set for Thursday was waived and a new hearing was set for Aug. 23. That's when trucker James Matthew Bradley Jr. is expected to a give video deposition.
The 60-year-old faces charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. He could face the death penalty if convicted. Authorities allege he drove a trailer full of immigrants from South Texas that was discovered in the parking lot of a Walmart early Sunday morning. Authorities suspect he may be part of a larger organization involved in human smuggling.
Officials say a 19-year-old Guatemalan citizen who was among 10 immigrants who died after riding in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer had graduated from high school in Virginia and was recently deported from the U.S. after legal trouble.
Guatemalan diplomat Cristy Andrino told The Associated Press that Frank Guisseppe Fuentes immigrated to the United States as a child. She said he died while trying to get to Maryland, where he has family. The tractor-trailer with the immigrants was found Sunday outside a San Antonio Walmart.
A spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says Fuentes was protected from deportation for a time under President Barack Obama's Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival Program. But his protected status expired in June 2016.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Fuentes was a suspected gang member who was deported in March after being convicted of assault and battery by a mob.
A spokesman for Fairfax County Schools says Fuentes graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in 2015.
A Texas congressman says a truck that carried dozens of immigrants passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint about two hours before it was discovered outside a San Antonio Walmart. Ten people found in the rig died.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar told The Associated Press on Tuesday that authorities informed him that the truck James Matthew Bradley Jr. is charged with driving cleared the checkpoint near Laredo around 10 p.m. Saturday. Police arrived at the Walmart parking lot at 12:23 a.m. Sunday.
Cuellar says he's unsure whether immigrants crossing into the U.S. illegally boarded the truck before or after it passed the checkpoint.
A Guatemalan diplomat on Tuesday identified one of the migrants who died as 19-year-old Frank Guisseppe Fuentes. Cristy Andrino says Fuentes was headed to rejoin his family in Maryland.