A caring, giving person who was willing to help anyone in need. That’s the way the family of Bishop Evans are remembering the Texas National Guard soldier.
Search teams recovered Evans’ body near Eagle Pass three days after he went missing trying to help a migrant struggling to swim across, the Texas Military Department confirmed Monday.
The search began Friday morning in Eagle Pass when 22-year-old Bishop Evans went missing Friday while, according to Texas Military officials, was "trying to selflessly help migrants" who were crossing the river from Mexico into the United States.
The local sheriff said Evans jumped into the river without his jacket or radio to help a woman who appeared in distress while trying to swim over from Mexico.
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Evans' body was found near the boat ramp of a bridge in Eagle Pass, said Democratic state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Eagle Pass.
Jo Ann Johnson, surrounded by family at her home in Arlington, described her grandson Monday evening as a caring and giving person.
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“God put that in him first, that’s something that we nurtured," Johnson said. "If he sees that you’re in trouble, he’ll ask you about yourself later but right now he’s going to help you.”
Gilbert Rios says he saw that trait in Evans well before he volunteered to serve his country, as a kindergarten student in San Antonio.
"Bishop was just a born leader," his former school principal said. "To me, he’s a hero and one that will never be forgotten."
A friend and fellow service member, who asked NBC 5 not to use his identity since he's currently serving, said Evans was a one-of-a-kind person.
"I'm going to miss working with him. He would make you smile, make you laugh, make the day go by quick," said the friend who also served time with Evans overseas.
He said Evans was creative, loved to draw and was always learning something new in his free time, like different languages. Evans also was known to show compassion for others and help them out whether it was through buying food or taking people to doctors appointments, said the fellow service member.
The friend added that when it came to Evans job, he took it very seriously.
"He was quiet, he was a shy guy, when you first got to meet him, but when you go to know him, he was selfless. As selfless as one can be honestly, he's always worried about others before himself," said the fellow service member.
That was evident during his heroic efforts on Friday as he saved the two migrants struggling to cross the river.
"In that moment, I wasn't there, I can't speak for exactly what he saw, it's still under investigation, but from what I understand, in that moment what he saw was people needed help, it didn't matter who they were or what their situation was, he saw people that needed help and that was just the bottom line, he was going to help them," said the friend.
"He didn't second guess himself, he didn't stop to ask questions, he acted, he executed the way all of us are proud of him for," he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott also released a statement offering his condolences.
"We are heartbroken to learn of the death of SPC Bishop E. Evans," Abbott said in a press release. "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."
In a Tweet, the governor said he ordered for the Texas flag to be lowered to half-staff to honor Evans, who died during Operation Lone Star.
Evans, a 22-year-old field artilleryman from Arlington, graduated from Mansfield High School where he was a member of the school's JROTC drill team and was recruited into the Guard. He joined the Texas National Guard in 2019 and he returned in the fall of 2020 from mobilization to Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait, officials said.
Migrant rescues are common in the river along the Texas border, and the attempted crossings are also sometimes deadly. Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber said the bodies of as many as two migrants a week are sometimes found along his county's section of the river.
Evans was assigned to Abbott's sprawling border mission known as Operation Lone Star. Gutierrez said Evans is at least the fifth Guard member known to have died during the mission that began last year. He called for an inquest into their deaths.
Dannie Johnson says he wants the focus to remain on his grandson, who was a soldier, nephew, cousin and friend who simply had the heart to serve and the courage to sacrifice.
"He’s going to be missed and always be loved and carried in our hearts," Johnson said.