A 22-year-old man from Arlington, Texas, has been identified as the National Guard soldier who went missing while attempting to rescue illegal immigrants who may have been drowning in the Rio Grande.
The Texas Military Department confirmed Specialist Bishop E. Evans went missing following his efforts to rescue the illegal aliens on April 22.
Evans was assigned to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star when the incident took place. Evans removed his body armor and entered the Rio Grande in a bid to rescue the illegal immigrants, but his body did not surface.
“Texas National Guard Specialist Bishop Evans is a hero who risked his life in service to Texas & America. Law enforcement & rescue teams continue a relentless search for him. Join us in prayer for a successful recovery. Updates will be provided when they become available,” Abbott wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening.
Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber provided details about the incident to CBS News. “He jumped in the river,” Schmerber said. “They never saw him come out.”
Officials said the two illegal immigrants were taken into custody after they were extricated from the Rio Grande, which partially forms the U.S.–Mexico border. The illegal aliens are believed to be involved in drug trafficking, authorities told CBS and other news outlets over the weekend.
Evans is assigned to A Battery, 4-133 Field Artillery Regiment in New Braunfels, the Texas Military Department said in a statement. He joined the Texas Army National Guard in May 2019. Evans left Texas but returned in 2020 after taking part in Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait.
Dive teams had stopped their operations Saturday evening owing to the river’s strong current. Three airboats from the Texas Department of Public Safety helped with the search on Sunday.
Operation Lone Star has deployed thousands of Guard members across Texas’s 1,200-mile (1,920-kilometer) 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.
Abbott, a Republican, said the operation is needed to curb the historic levels of illegal immigrants pouring across the border. He’s also criticized the Biden administration for what he and other Republicans—and some Democrats—say are lax border security policies.
Abbott also has transported illegal immigrants from Texas via bus to Washington, D.C. in recent days, coming after the White House signaled it would end Title 42, a COVID-19-related health rule that allowed for the expulsion of illegal aliens.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.