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Monday, June 27, 2022

Body recovered of Texas border soldier who drowned trying to save two people | Texas

Search crews on Monday recovered the body of a Texas national guard soldier who apparently drowned three days earlier while trying to save two people he believed were struggling to swim across the Rio Grande near the US southern border.

The 22-year-old soldier, Bishop E Evans, was working in Eagle Pass as part of a border security operation under the direction of the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. Evans’ superiors hailed him as “selfless” and condemned the people he was trying to save as suspected drug traffickers attempting to enter the country without permission.

“We are devastated by the loss of a member of our Guard family,” said a statement from the leader of Texas’ national guard, major general Tom Suelzer. “We recognize the selflessness of this heroic soldier who put his life above others in service to our state and national security.”

Evans shed his radio and body armor and jumped into the Rio Grande to rescue two people he thought were drowning about 8.30am Friday. He did not resurface, prompting divers and boat crews to search along the river for signs of him for four days.

The river’s infamously swift current forced crews to temporarily pause the search at least twice.

Bishop Evans was hailed as ‘selfless’ by his superiors.
Bishop Evans was hailed as ‘selfless’ by his superiors. Photograph: Courtesy of Greg Abbott’s office

The two people whom Evans was trying to help safely crossed the river, and US Customs and Border Patrol agents detained both. The pair are accused of being “involved in illicit transnational narcotics trafficking”, said a statement from the Texas military department, which administers the state’s national guard.

Evans joined the Texas national guard in May 2019, state military department officials said. He later deployed to Kuwait and would occasionally travel to Iraq to support special operations forces. Evans earned the opportunity to work in Iraq through his “dedication, talents and tactical prowess”, Texas military department officials added.

At an estimated weekly cost of $2.5m, Abbott launched the border security initiative that Evans was working on last year. It was the governor’s response to a reported increase in border crossing, which Abbott declared a disaster, enabling him to send the national guard there.

Authorities say the state police troopers and national guard soldiers primarily staffing the operation have arrested more than 200,000 migrants crossing into the US without permission on nearly 12,000 criminal charges.

But those arrests include ones that are physically distant from the border, not related to crimes there, and made by law enforcement agencies not directly involved in Operation Lone Star, according to the Texas Tribune, ProPublica and the Marshall Project.

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