Custom truck shop mistakenly caught up in human smuggling case

Peterbilt truck

Justin McDaniel’s custom truck shop, Outlaw Iron, has been dealing with a lot of “sarcastic comments and a lot of negative comments” since Sunday when a truck driven by James M. Bradley Jr. was found to be carrying illegal immigrants believed to be part of a human smuggling ring. The truck Bradley was driving was restored by McDaniel’s shop.

A number of news outlets initially reported that the truck was owned by Outlaw Iron. Outlaw sold the truck to Bradley in March.

According to KSAT.com, the 60-year-old Bradley has been charged with “unlawfully transporting aliens in violation of law, resulting in the death of 10 of the aliens transported.”

The report also said there were 41 total immigrants in the trailer. Either were found dead on Sunday when police, acting on a tip from a Walmart employee, discovered the vehicle in the Walmart parking lot.

McDaniel said his shop spent six months restoring the 1999 Peterbilt. “We were definitely proud of that build and that one was special to us,” he said, adding that it unfortunate now that the shop has “received bad publicity over this [truck].”

According to McDaniel, the tractor was posted for sale on Truckpaper.com in February. The day after the ad was posted, Bradley got in touch with him. McDaniel described Bradley as “ecstatic and excited” upon seeing the truck.

KSAT.com reported that a San Antonio police officer spotted the suspicious-looking tractor-trailer at the back of Walmart lot. Upon taking a closer look, the officer found several people coming out from the trailer. When he checked the cab of the truck, he found Bradley.

Bradley claimed that he only parked the 18-wheeler trailer to pee when he heard some movement from inside. He admitted in the complaint letter, KSAT.com reported, that he saw people in bad shape but instead of calling 911, he called his fiancée instead. He also stated that the only thing he knew about the trailer is that he needed to ship it to a person based in Brownsville, Texas, without checking the contents of the trailer. He did not mention the name of the intended recipient of the contents of the trailer. He admitted hearing sounds inside the trailer though when he told the officers that he “heard banging and shaking in the trailer” once it was parked by Walmart.

In the same complaint letter, Bradley claimed that he was “surprised when he was run over by ‘Spanish’ people, and that’s when he noticed bodies just lying on the floor like meat.” Bradley said the “the trailer refrigeration system did not work and that the four vent holes probably were clogged.”

Security cameras of the lot saw people leaving the trailer.

These statements contradicted the CCTV footage recovered from the area.

“Checking the video from the store, we found a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer [who] survived the trip,” William McManus, the San Antonio police chief said.

In a report published by The Washington Post, Bradley was mentioned as a truck driver working with Pyle Transportation in Schaller, Iowa.  The firm’s owner, Brian Pyle, said that Bradley operated on his own. He further explained, “He had my name on the side, and I pay for his insurance. He makes his own decisions, buys his own fuel.”

In the two reports that KSAT.com published about this incident, Bradley was shown wearing a t-shirt bearing the name and emblem of Pyle Transportation.