Truck driver formally indicted for 10 immigrant deaths in Texas

FILE PHOTO: Police officers work on a crime scene after eight people believed to be illegal immigrants being smuggled into the United States were found dead inside a sweltering 18-wheeler trailer parked behind a Walmart store in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. July 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ray Whitehouse/File Photo

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A truck driver accused of smuggling immigrants inside a packed and sweltering tractor-trailer through Texas, 10 of whom died, was formally indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday on charges that can carry the death penalty, prosecutors said.

James Bradley Jr., 60, was given a five-count indictment that included charges of transportation of undocumented aliens resulting in death and conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death. If convicted on these charges, he could face up to life in prison or death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas said.

A lawyer for Bradley was not immediately available for comment.

The incident was one of the deadliest cases of immigrant smuggling in recent U.S. history and brought renewed attention to the dangers of human trafficking.

Law enforcement was called to investigate a suspicious tractor trailer in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio on July 23 and found about 39 people in the trailer, eight of whom were dead. Others were in perilous health, and two died later, court documents showed.

Many of the immigrants in the trailer ran when Bradley opened the doors. Nearly 200 people may have been inside the truck, according to the documents.

Bradley told law enforcement officials that he did not know about he was carrying human cargo.

“Bradley said he went to open the doors and was surprised when he was run over by ‘Spanish’ people and knocked to the ground,” the criminal complaint said.

Seven men from Mexico and an 18-year-old man from Guatemala were among the dead. The other two fatalities included a juvenile whose name has not been made public and an adult who has not yet been identified, prosecutors said.

Of the survivors, 22 were in federal custody and charged as material witnesses, two remained in hospital and five were released from hospital and turned over to U.S. immigration authorities, prosecutors said.

Some survivors have sought to offer testimony in exchange for consideration of visas that would allow them to stay in the United States, their attorneys said.

In 2003, 19 people died after traveling in an 18-wheeler truck through Victoria, Texas.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Suspicious truck prompts evacuations at Massachusetts Air Force base

BOSTON (Reuters) – Massachusetts State Police said on Thursday they were investigating a suspicious truck stopped at the gates of Hanscom Air Force Base after an initial screening of the vehicle indicated signs of possibly hazardous material.

Parts of the base were evacuated but no injuries were reported, base officials said in a statement. The incident began at about 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) when base security became concerned about the truck at a gate during a routine inspection.

The State Police bomb squad and a State Police helicopter went to the scene at the base, located about 15 miles (24 km)northwest of Boston.

About 10,000 people, including military staff and civilians, work at the 846-acre (342-hectare) site in Bedford, Massachusetts, which is home to units overseeing acquisitions, cyber security and some nuclear operations.

Live aerial footage showed a large truck with “BigFoot Moving & Storage” emblazoned on the side stopped near the base’s gate with an armored military vehicle parked nearby. Police said they had set up a 1,500-foot (457-meter) perimeter around the truck. ”

A person who answered the phone at the moving company and declined to give her name said that she was aware of the truck’s presence at the base but had no details as to what was in it.

The nearby L.G. Hanscom Field airport, which caters to small planes, remained open, the Bedford Police Department said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Gabriella Borter)

Truck plows into crowd at Berlin Christmas market, nine dead

Police and emergency workers stand next to a crashed truck at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016.

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) – A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin on Monday evening, killing nine people and injuring up to 50 others, police said.

German media, citing police at the scene, said first indications pointed to an attack on the market, situated at the foot of the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, which was kept as a bombed-out ruin after World War Two.

The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.

The truck careered into the Berlin market at what would have been one of the most crowded times for the Christmas market, when adults and children would be gathering in the traditional cluster of wooden huts that sell food and Christmas goods.

Berlin police said nine people were killed

“I heard a big noise and then I moved on the Christmas market and saw much chaos…many injured people,” Jan Hollitzer, deputy editor in chief of Berliner Morgenpost, told CNN.

“It was really traumatic.”

Police cars and ambulances converged quickly on the scene as a huge security operation unfolded. The fate of the driver of the truck was not immediately clear, but Bild newspaper said he was on the run.

Emma Rushton, a tourist visiting Berlin, told CNN the truck seemed to be traveling at about 40 mph (65 Kmh).

Asked how many were injured, she said that as she walked back to her hotel, she saw at least 10.

Julian Reichelt, editor in chief of Bild Berlin, said that there was currently a massive security operation under way.

“The scene certainly looks like a reminder of what we have seen in Nice,” Reichelt said,

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Writing by Robin Pomeroy and Ralph Boulton)

G.M. recalls 1.04 million newer trucks

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Lansing Grand River Assembly Plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Motors Co said Friday it is recalling nearly 1.04 million newer pickup trucks for a seat belt flaw.

The largest U.S. automaker said the recall of the 2014-15 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups is not linked to any crashes or injuries. GM said the cost of the large recall “is not expected to be significant and is covered within normal and customary warranty reserves.”

GM said the recall in the United States includes 895,232 vehicles and a stop-sale of approximately 3,000 new 2014 and 2015 model year pickups still on dealer lots.

GM said the recall was prompted by warranty data that showed the flexible steel cable that connects the seat belt to the vehicle can separate over time as a result of the driver repeatedly bending the cable when entering the seat.

Dealers will enlarge the side shield opening, install a bracket on the tensioner, and if necessary, replace the tensioner assembly.

The recall includes about 142,000 vehicles outside the United States.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

Prosecutor Refuses To Drop Case of Christian Ticketed For Scripture On Truck

A Christian who was ticked for posting a sign on his truck that quoted Scripture is reporting the prosecutor handling the case refuses to drop it because of the New York protests against police.

“The prosecutor stated that he was not going to drop the case because he wanted to respect the authority of police,” Luis Zapata, whose defense attorney spoke with the prosecution last week, told Christian News Network on Wednesday. “Especially with the events with the police officers in New York City—the protests and the negative view of the officers—he was going to stand by the officer.”

Zapata has been posting scripture on his truck for two years until last August.  He said that he felt God telling him to share the gospel with the word and to place a sign on his truck about the Lord’s return.

Police officer Mark Van Wormer began to harass Zapata when he was parked near an abortion clinic for a protest with other Christians.  Van Wormer told Zapata to take his signs down or he would be ticketed.  Zapata moved the truck at the officer’s approval and then was later ticketed by Van Wormer at the new location.

Zapata said the tickets are part of a harassment campaign by the police against the Christians who protest the clinic.

“I feel that the city of Englewood got together with the abortion mill to try to drive us out of there by giving us petty citations,” he said.