By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – A Texas National Guardsman has died after attempting to save people from drowning in the Rio Grande River who were illegally entering Texas from Mexico. They were later identified as drug smugglers, investigators with the Texas Rangers said.
The guardsman, Specialist Bishop E. Evans, 22, from Arlington, Texas, went missing Friday morning. His body was found Monday.
“The missing Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Specialist Bishop E. Evans, assigned to Operation Lone Star, has been found deceased following an exhaustive interagency search,” the Texas Military Department said in a statement issued Monday. “SPC Evans went missing while trying to selflessly help migrants who appeared to be drowning as they tried to cross the river from Mexico into the U.S, on Friday April 22, 2022.”
“We are devastated by the loss of a member of our Guard family,” Maj. Gen. Tom Suelzer, adjutant general for Texas, said. “We recognize the selflessness of this heroic Soldier who put his life above others in service to our state and national security. The Texas Military Department sends our deepest condolences to the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”
Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a photo of Spc. Evans Sunday, saying he was “a hero who risked his life in service to Texas and America.”
On Monday, he issued a statement, saying, “Our National Guard soldiers risk their lives every day to serve and protect others and we are eternally grateful for the way SPC Evans heroically served his state and country. I thank the members of the Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Border Patrol, and local law enforcement for working around the clock to locate this soldier. The Texas Military Department will continue to provide more updates to the public as they become available. I ask that Texans join Cecilia and me in praying for the family and friends of SPC Evans as they grieve this heartbreaking loss.”
Spc. Evans was presumed to have drowned in the Rio Grande River after jumping in to save others. Initial reports of his death were refuted by the Texas Military Department, which issued two statements on Friday confirming that a soldier was missing and his death couldn’t be confirmed. While an extensive search was underway, an investigation began into the incident, led by the Texas Rangers. By Friday evening, the strength of the river’s current forced search and rescue efforts to stop for the night.
On Saturday, the Texas Military Department released the soldier’s name and more information about the incident. It reported that Spc. Evans “selflessly attempted to help two migrants who appeared to be drowning as they illegally crossed the river from Mexico to the United States.
“Initial reports from the Texas Rangers have determined that the two migrants were involved in illicit transnational narcotics trafficking. They remain in the custody of US Customs and Border Patrol.”
Dive teams continued their search for Spc. Evans on Saturday but were again forced to halt them by Saturday evening due to strong river currents. Search and rescue operations began again early Sunday morning, with an additional three airboats from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Spc. Evans was a field artilleryman who was assigned to A Battery, 4-133 Field Artillery Regiment in New Braunfels. He joined the Texas Army National Guard in May 2019. He returned in fall 2020 from mobilization to Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait. During this mobilization, “his dedication, talents, and tactical prowess led his leadership to regularly assign him to operations in Iraq in support of Special Operations Forces for short periods of time, while then rotating back into Kuwait,” the Texas Military Department reported.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a vocal critic of the Biden administration who’s called for the impeachment of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, went to Eagle Pass with a group of Republican lawmakers.
Upon learning of Spc. Evans’ death, he said, “If we just secured the border we wouldn’t have that loss of life. We wouldn’t have a little girl getting sold into the sex trafficking trade on Friday in an arrest of a deported migrant who’d been deported 15 times. Let’s stop the madness. We can do it. This administration refuses to. Our job is to hold them accountable.”