The soldier, who has now been identified as 22-year-old Texas Army National Guard Specialist Bishop E. Evans of Arlington, went missing while trying to rescue two migrants who appeared to be drowning while crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the U.S. The area he went missing in is a section of the river known for strong currents.
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The Texas Rangers, the Texas Military Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Border Patrol have all worked through search and rescue teams to locate Spc. Evans, however dive teams had to stop their search Saturday evening due to the river currents picking up.
Search and rescue operations continued early Sunday morning and three Texas DPS airboats have joined the search, says the Texas Military Department.
Law enforcement sources initially told FOX News Friday that Spc. Evans had drowned. However, the sources later said that the body that had been recovered was in fact a migrant, not the service member.
Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber said Evans took off his jacket and left his radio before going into the water around 8:30 a.m. Friday. "He jumped in the river," Schmerber said. "They never saw him come out.
Spc. Evans is a field artilleryman assigned to A Battery, 4-133 Field Artillery Regiment in New Braunfels and joined the Texas Army National Guard in May 2019. He returned in fall 2020 from mobilization to Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait.
The two migrants were taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. According to the military department, authorities believe the migrants were involved in drug smuggling.
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 multi billion-dollar operation also includes a heavy presence of state troopers and authorizes Guard members to help make arrests.
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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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.