National Guard identifies soldier who went missing at Texas border while trying to save migrant

Bishop Evans (Facebook)

Emerson Clarridge

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A Texas Army National Guard specialist who jumped into a river to rescue two migrants struggling in the water as they tried to cross to the U.S. from Mexico was from Arlington, the military said on Sunday.

Bishop Evans, 22, was a field artilleryman assigned to a regiment in New Braunfels. He joined the Texas Army National Guard in May 2019, according to the Texas Military Department.

Evans had been involved in a mobilization to Kuwait and was assigned then for periods in Iraq to support special operations forces.

A woman trying on Friday morning to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico made it about halfway when she appeared to begin going under the water, Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber told the Associated Press. The rescue attempt occurred near Eagle Pass at a section of the river known for strong currents.

Evans took off his jacket and left his radio before going into the water. The woman made it across and was placed in the custody of Border Patrol, said Schmerber, whose department was involved early in the search. A second migrant apparently also had difficulty in the water.

The Texas Rangers determined that the migrants were involved in illicit narcotics trafficking, according to the Texas Military Department.

Evans’ body had not been found, and authorities continued the search on Sunday.

Teams ended their efforts on Saturday evening as the river’s current made diving challenging, according the Texas Military Department. Operations began again early on Sunday, with the addition of three airboats from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Evans was assigned to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s sprawling border security mission, known as Operation Lone Star, which has deployed thousands of Guard members across Texas’ 1,200-mile southern border since launching last year. The multibillion-dollar operation also includes a heavy presence of state troopers and authorizes Guard members to help make arrests. The mission has come under scrutiny over migrants sitting in border jails for months on trespassing charges and low morale among Guard members over living conditions, long deployments and little to do.

Migrant rescues are common in the river along the Texas border, and the attempted crossings are also sometimes deadly. Schmerber said the bodies of as many as two migrants a week are sometimes found along his county’s section of the river.

Schmerber, a former Border Patrol officer, said Guard members do not usually enter the water to attempt rescues and this was the first incident he could recall.

He estimated the portion of the river where the attempted rescue occurred was roughly 70 to 80 yards wide. “That river is very dangerous. It’s strong currents,” Schmerber said. “It’s risky to cross the river like that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story was originally published April 24, 2022 5:01 PM.

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