Turks and Caicos Releases American After Ammo Mix-Up

Zac K
by Zac K
Tourist Faces Potential 12-Year Sentence For Unintentionally Bringing Ammo To Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos legal system must be getting tired of all the American tourists who are starting to pile up there on illegal ammo importation charges. Despite threats of long minimum sentences, it appears they are readying to send tourists home to the States instead of sending them to prison—although, if the example of a Pennsylvania man they’ve just sent home is any indication, those tourists’ wallets are going to be a lot lighter.

The Turks and Caicos recently made headlines in the U.S. media when their government started enforcing a crackdown on tourists who had illegally brought ammunition into the country, even if they claimed it was a few stray rounds brought in by accident. After several such incidents over the years, with ammo in tourists’ luggage who then said they’d forgotten it was there, the Turks and Caicos government announced a no-tolerance policy, with threats of a 12-year minimum jail term.

The U.S. State Department warned tourists to be careful about visiting the islands and to check their luggage carefully for any ammo that could be kicking around, forgotten after a trip to the range or hunting camp.

Nevertheless, tourists continued to run into trouble. In mid-April, the issue came to the forefront as 40-year-old Ryan Watson of Oklahoma and his wife Valerie were both detained over stray hunting ammo in his bag. Valerie was sent home, but Ryan was kept on the islands pending further scrutiny from the courts. He potentially faced more than a decade in jail as a minimum sentence.

Ryan Watson is still in Turks and Caicos facing the islands’ legal system. His wife Valerie was allowed to fly home. [GoFundMe]
Now, it looks like the Turks and Caicos government might rethink that punishment policy. Fox News reports that 39-year-old Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania ended up facing the courts in Turks and Caicos and receiving a 52-month suspended sentence. ABC News says that after Hagerich pleaded guilty in the Turks and Caicos, he was given a lighter sentence and a $6,700 fine… and his passport. He is now home in the U.S.

Three other Americans are still in Turks and Caicos from incidents similar to Hagerich. Along with Watson, Tyler Scott Wenrich of Virginia, and Sharitta Shinise Grier of Florida were detained at the airport when they tried to fly home and security said they found ammunition in their luggage. Michael Lee Evans of Texas was also detained in a similar incident but he has reportedly flown home for medical care. All say they had the same basic issue as Hagerich—a genuine mistake with their bags—and the U.S. politicians are pressuring to have them released quickly.

Watson, Wenrich and Grier are reportedly sharing a rental residence as they await their journey through the islands’ legal system.

Zac K
Zac K

Professional hoser with fudd-ish leanings.

More by Zac K

Join the conversation
2 of 30 comments
  • ShooterReady ShooterReady on May 29, 2024

    I keep luggage that I use strictly when traveling to a jurisdiction where firearms are tightly restricted. Those never get used for shooting events.

  • Aim right Idaho Aim right Idaho on May 29, 2024

    The place was never high on my vacation list, but now it's not on that list at all. Although, I just want to say, I never carry guns or ammo in any piece of luggage that might travel with me to a place other than a range.