National Guard soldier missing after trying to save two migrants in Rio Grande

The Texas Military Department said on Friday a soldier assigned to Operation Lone Star had gone missing along the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass. (Chris Stokes For The Texas Tribune, Chris Stokes For The Texas Tribune)

This article is co-published and co-reported with Military Times, an independent news organization reporting on issues important to the U.S. military. Sign up for its daily Early Bird Brief newsletter here.

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The search for a Texas Army National Guard soldier assigned to Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s highly touted border initiative, continued over the weekend.

The soldier, Bishop E. Evans, went missing after he jumped into the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, just after 9:45 a.m. Friday, as he attempted to rescue two migrants who appeared to be drowning, according to documents obtained by Military Times and The Texas Tribune. Despite removing his body armor before entering the Rio Grande, the soldier did not resurface.

Shortly after the incident, interagency rescue efforts began with search parties in boats and helicopters. Dive teams arrived on site Friday but were forced to temporarily halt their operations Saturday evening due to river conditions, according to a Texas Military Department press release.

On Sunday, the Texas Military Department reported the search was still ongoing.

"The search for the missing TMD soldier will continue until we have exhausted all available resources," the agency said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family of the soldier."

Evans is a 22-year-old field artilleryman from Arlington. He joined the Texas Army National Guard in 2019.

According to the TMD, the two migrants were trying to illegally cross the river from Mexico into the United States. Texas Rangers reported the migrants were involved in "illicit transnational narcotics trafficking" and are in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Two soldiers, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, told Military Times and the Tribune that, in the wake of the incident, some commanders in the sector have issued orders banning troops from entering the water without a flotation device. Other units have banned entering the water entirely.

Late Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott took to Twitter, calling Evans a hero.

"Texas National Guard Specialist Bishop Evans is a hero who risked his life in service to Texas & America," Abbott tweeted. "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."

Reporter Sneha Day contributed to this story.

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