A 22-year-old Texas Guardsman who drowned while trying to rescue migrants at the state’s border with Mexico was hailed as a hero by his grandparents. According to PEOPLE, Specialist Bishop E. Evans is said to have lost his life as he attempted to rescue migrants who were supposedly drowning.
The Texas Military Department on Monday announced the body of the deceased National Guard had been found days after he went missing in a river along the border. “We are devastated by the loss of a member of our Guard family,” Maj. Gen. Tom Suelzer, Adjutant General for Texas, said in a statement.
“We recognize the selflessness of this heroic Soldier who put his life above others in service to our state and national security,” he added. “The Texas Military Department sends our deepest condolences to the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”
Evans was posted to the border as part of a security border operation the state governor had set up. In a Twitter post on Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott said Evans was a “hero who risked his life in service to Texas & America.”
Abbott issued another statement on Monday after Evans’ body was found. “We are heartbroken to learn of the death of SPC Bishop E. Evans who was reported missing in Eagle Pass on Friday,” Abbott said. “Our National Guard soldiers risk their lives every day to serve and protect others and we are eternally grateful for the way SPC Evans heroically served his state and country.”
“I thank the members of the Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Border Patrol, and local law enforcement for working around the clock to locate this soldier,” he added. “The Texas Military Department will continue to provide more updates to the public as they become available. I ask that Texans join Cecilia and me in praying for the family and friends of SPC Evans as they grieve this heartbreaking loss.”
Prior to jumping the river, Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber told KTVT that Evans removed his jacket and radio. “He jumped in the river,” he said. “They never saw him come out.”
In an interview with WFAA, Evans’ grandmother, Jo Ann Johnson, said her grandson’s heroic death did not come as a surprise. “He wouldn’t ask you who you were before he tried to help you. He just wouldn’t,” Jo Ann said. “It doesn’t matter your nationality, how you look, your color hair. That’s who my baby was.”
Evans’ grandfather, Dannie Johnson, also added: “He would help you in need. He would die for you, he did die.”
Authorities said the two migrants the deceased National Guard was attempting to rescue were involved in “illicit transnational narcotics trafficking.” They have since been taken into custody.