By Amir Vera, Melanie Zanona, David Shortell and Claudia Dominguez, CNN
Evans on Friday attempted to rescue two migrants who were crossing the Rio Grande River. He was assigned to Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to combat what he has called a crisis at the US-Mexico border.
“This young soldier made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of protecting and serving our country. He will never be forgotten,” Gonzales said.
The Texas Military Department (TMD) said that Evans was a 22-year-old field artilleryman from Arlington, Texas, and had served in the guard for almost two years. Evans was deployed to Kuwait with assignments in Iraq as part of Operation Spartan Shield before serving on Texas’ southern border, according to the release.
Evans was posthumously promoted to sergeant, Gonzalez tweeted Thursday. “Rest In Peace, Sgt. Evans,” the congressman wrote.
Authorities have said that Evans attempted to help the migrants as they crossed the border near Eagle Pass, Texas. The migrants are suspected of being “involved in illicit transnational narcotics trafficking” and are currently in the custody of US Customs and Border Patrol.
Evans was not authorized to enter the water, officials said Thursday.
“For their own safety, all Service Members assigned to security points along the border are not authorized to enter the water,” the Texas Military Department said in a statement.
“This does not reduce human instinct. SGT Evans selflessly acted to rescue migrants who appeared to be drowning as they illegally crossed the river from Mexico to the U.S. His act was heroic. His loss is tragic,” said officials, who are continuing to investigate the incident.
Abbott released a statement earlier this week saying “we are eternally grateful for the way SPC Evans heroically served his state and country.”
The governor thanked the Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Border Patrol and local law enforcement for their efforts in trying to locate Evans.
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CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Hannah Sarisohn, Rosa Flores and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.