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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Body of missing Texas National Guard soldier found

Bishop Evans is the seventh Texas National Guard soldier who has died after deployment to the Mexico border last year for Governor Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star.

HOUSTON (CN) — A Texas National Guard soldier who went missing Friday after diving into the Rio Grande to save two immigrants who appeared to be drowning was found dead Monday.

Specialist Bishop E. Evans, 22, of Arlington, was among the 10,000 Texas National Guard soldiers deployed to the border to help federal immigration agents and Texas state police apprehend people entering the state without papers from Mexico for Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.

He removed his body armor before entering the river near Eagle Pass Friday morning but was washed away by its strong currents, which reportedly caused 10 drownings last week.

“We are devastated by the loss of a member of our Guard family,” said Major General Tom Suelzer, adjutant general for Texas. “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.”

Using boats, airplanes, helicopters and dive teams, the Texas Military Department, Texas Rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Service and Border Patrol searched for Evans on Friday and over the weekend.

The Rio Grande’s stiff currents forced dive teams to stop their search Saturday, but the effort was resumed early Sunday morning with the addition of three airboats, according to the Texas Military Department.  

Evans joined the Texas National Guard in May 2019 and was assigned to a field artillery regiment in New Braunfels.

He distinguished himself during a deployment to Kuwait in 2020, where he was called on for special assignments by his superiors.

“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 said in a statement.

Evans is the sixth Texas National Guard soldier who has died after deployment in March 2021 for Operation Lone Star.

Five others have died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, the latest on New Year’s Day when an inebriated soldier accidentally shot himself, according to the Army Times.

Abbott responded in March to criticism about troops enlisted in Operation Lone Star facing delayed pay, poor working conditions and inadequate gear by replacing Major General Tracy Norris as head of the Texas Military Department.

Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat and former El Paso congressman, is trying to unseat Abbott, a two-term Republican governor, and will face him in the November general election.

Though O’Rourke is one of the fiercest critics of Abbott’s border policies, he refrained from politicizing Evans’ death Monday.

“My thoughts are with the family of SPC Bishop E. Evans. I'm grateful for his service to our state, this country, and all of us. We're thinking of his loved ones, his community, and the men and women of the Texas National Guard who served alongside him,” O’Rourke tweeted Monday.

The immigrants Evans tried to save survived and are in federal custody.

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