First of Five Americans Detained in Turks and Caicos for Ammunition Faces Sentencing


The first of five Americans detained and charged with carrying ammunition in Turks and Caicos will face a sentencing hearing on Friday.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British territory, possession of firearms, weapons, or stray bullets is strictly prohibited and heavily enforced by local authorities.

Turks and Caicos authorities emphasize that it is the travelers’ responsibility to ensure their baggage contains no prohibited items, including weapons and ammunition.

Even within the U.S., improperly secured or undeclared ammunition or firearms found by airport security can result in a fine and criminal referral.

‘A Very Simple, Honest Mistake’

Bryan Hagerich, 39, was on vacation with his wife and two young children when stray hunting ammunition was found in his luggage in February. Detained and imprisoned for eight days before posting bail, Hagerich has stayed on the island since. He has missed several significant events back home in the States, including his children’s birthdays.

Hagerich said he’s “absolutely terrified” about the possibility of prison time.

The Turks and Caicos Islands government confirmed Hagerich pleaded guilty to carrying 20 rifle rounds in his luggage. On Friday, he will learn his fate, potentially facing a minimum of 12 years in prison.

Four other Americans share the same predicament: Ryan Watson, Tyler Wenrich, Michael Evans, and Sharitta Shinise Grier.

Ryan Watson

Ryan Watson, 40, was vacationing in Turks and Caicos with his wife for a birthday trip in early April. On April 12, they were stopped by airport security and escorted to the police station when ammunition was found in Watson’s carry-on luggage. Watson called it a “bonehead mistake” and said locals helped him post bail. His next court date is June 7.

Tyler Wenrich

Tyler Wenrich, 31, has been in Turks and Caicos since April 20. His father told Truth Voices that Wenrich spent three days in jail and 14 days in prison before being released on bond. Wenrich said the bullets were left unknowingly in a duffel bag from a deer hunting trip, unnoticed by U.S. airport authorities.

Michael Evans

Michael Evans, 72, was detained in December after authorities found bullets in his luggage. He was released on a $20,000 bond and allowed to return to the U.S. for medical reasons, as he has terminal cancer. Evans pleaded guilty to illegal possession of ammunition and faces a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison. His sentencing is in June.

Sharitta Shinise Grier

Sharitta Shinise Grier, 45, from Orlando, was arrested on May 13 for possession of ammunition, according to the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force. Traveling with her daughter for Mother’s Day, Grier was detained, while her daughter was later released. Grier appeared in court last week and was remanded. A sufficiency hearing is set for July 5.

Up to the Judge to Decide, Turks and Caicos Says

The Turks and Caicos government stated no American has ever received a 12-year sentence for illegally possessing ammunition, and that a judge can impose a lesser sentence with a fine. However, the possibility of more than a decade in prison looms for all five families.

The governor of Oklahoma is working behind the scenes to help free the detained Americans. Gov. Kevin Stitt has condemned the charges as “absurd.”

“We have to put pressure on Turks and Caicos and maybe have a travel ban there because this is just really, really, really odd that they are trying to put this guy away, all of these guys away,” he said on “Morning in America.”

Earlier this week, a delegation of U.S. congressmen and senators visited Turks and Caicos to advocate for the Americans’ release, but they were unsuccessful.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., voiced his frustration to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging stronger action. Blinken replied, emphasizing their continuous efforts to bring Americans home.

The Turks and Caicos government says three of the Americans have pled guilty, with two more expected to enter pleas soon.

Stephanie Haines
Stephanie Haines
Dallas-based correspondent. Stephanie previously worked at TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she often covered state politics, crime, and court cases. She covered the Kyle Rittenhouse trial gavel to gavel. Before Milwaukee, she worked at WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee, and WJFW in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Stephanie is a 2015 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

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