Border Patrol Agent James Paul Epling

Border Patrol Agent James Paul Epling

United States Department of Homeland Security - Customs and Border Protection - United States Border Patrol, U.S. Government

End of Watch Tuesday, December 16, 2003

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James Paul Epling

Border Patrol Agent James Epling drowned in the Colorado River near Andrade, California.

He and other agents had been involved in a foot pursuit of a Mexican national and three Chinese nationals who were spotted on the California side of the river. Agent Epling had jumped into the river and pulled the three Chinese nationals out of the water, saving one of them who was drowning. He was running downstream, attempting to arrest the Mexican national, when he went under the water.

Agents lost track of Agent Epling during the foot pursuit. He remained missing until his body was located three days later, approximately 200 yards from where he was last seen. Agents from the Yuma and San Diego Border Patrol Sectors, as well as many other United States and Mexican agencies, assisted in the search for Agent Epling.

The Mexican national, who was smuggling the others, was charged with 12 counts in connection with the incident, including transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death and transporting illegal aliens for financial gain.

Agent Epling was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. He had served with United States Border Patrol for less than one year and was assigned to the Yuma Border Patrol Station. He was survived by his expectant wife and three children.


  • Age 24
  • Tour 1 year
  • Badge 513
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Drowned
  • Location California

foot pursuit, illegal alien

Most Recent Reflection

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Agent Epling,
On today, the 20th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for Country-as a Border Patrol Agent and when you served with the U.S. Army Reserve as well. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.

A fellow BPA

United States Border Patrol

December 16, 2023

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