US Rep: Truck passed checkpoint 2 hours before discovery of immigrants

A bottle of water, flowers, candles, and stuffed animals help form a makeshift memorial in the parking lot of a Walmart store near the site where authorities Sunday discovered a tractor-trailer packed with immigrants outside a Walmart in San Antonio, Monday, July 24, 2017. Several people died and others hospitalized after being crammed into a sweltering tractor-trailer in the midsummer Texas heat, according to authorities in what they described as an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — 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., 60, 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.

Bradley initially told authorities he was transporting the trailer from Schwaller, Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. Federal officials said Bradley denied knowing there were people in the trailer, and discovered them only when he exited the vehicle to relieve himself.

During questioning, Bradley said he was traveling from Laredo to San Antonio and was en route to Brownsville to deliver it to someone who purchased it. He said when he stopped at the Walmart he heard “banging and shaking in the trailer.” According to an arrest affidavit, when he opened the trailer, “he was run over by ‘Spanish’ people and knocked to the ground.”

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.