Hunter's Ammo Mistake Could Land Him 12 Years in Turks and Caicos

Thayne Muthler

A tourist from Oklahoma is currently in a dire situation while enjoying a vacation in Turks and Caicos. Ryan Watson, the individual in question, has been apprehended and is now behind bars after customs officials found forgotten ammunition in his luggage. The possession of firearms, ammunition, and other weapons is strictly prohibited in this British Overseas Territory. As a result, Watson could potentially face a maximum prison sentence of 12 years. NBC News has reported on this unfortunate incident, shedding light on the severe consequences that Watson now faces.

Watson, together with his spouse and two companions, set off on a voyage to the captivating Caribbean island on April 7th. Their objective was to celebrate Watson's 40th birthday, but their intentions were disrupted when airport officials discovered a small Ziploc bag filled with numerous rounds of ammunition in their carry-on luggage. Watson clarified to NBC Boston that the bag had unintentionally been left inside the duffel bag after a hunting trip for deer. "Those were ammunition rounds I utilize for hunting whitetail deer," Watson admitted, acknowledging his own mistake.

The Watsons have been detained and are now dealing with legal consequences following their arrest by law enforcement. Their travel papers were taken by officials as part of the investigation. The turn of events happened quickly, resulting in a chain of occurrences that have left the family feeling unsure about their future.

After her initial court appearance, Valerie Watson, the wife of the accused, has been granted release from custody and allowed to return to her residence in Oklahoma City. In the meantime, a crowdfunding campaign has been initiated by supporters of the Watson family to provide financial aid for covering fines and legal expenses. The absence of a set trial date has further complicated the situation.

Mr. Watson, despite being granted bail, is still unable to reunite with his loved ones in the United States. A recent update on social media by a close friend has revealed the ongoing difficulties faced by the family. The situation surrounding the case is constantly changing, leaving numerous unanswered questions and causing concerns for those closely monitoring the developments.

A Pennsylvania man named Bryan Hagerich also found himself stuck in Turks and Caicos for more than 10 weeks following an incident at the airport. Hagerich was taken into custody when airport authorities found ammunition in his luggage that he had forgotten about. Despite being on a family vacation, Hagerich spent eight days in jail before being released on bail. His trial is scheduled for May 3, according to NBC News.

Hagerich voiced his discontent with the circumstances, declaring that the last 70 days have been the most challenging period of his life. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, had previously released a travel advisory in September 2023, cautioning visitors about the severe consequences of carrying firearms or ammunition in Turks and Caicos. This warning was issued following the enactment of a law in 2022 in the island nation, which prohibited the possession of guns or ammo without proper licensing from the local authorities.

The U.S. Embassy issued a warning to travelers, stressing that simply declaring firearms or ammunition with an airline carrier does not authorize bringing them into Turks and Caicos. Travelers were advised to carefully inspect their luggage for any overlooked ammunition or weapons before heading to the island. The Embassy made it known that those who break the law in Turks and Caicos will face the consequences of local law enforcement, without any assurance of intervention from the U.S. Embassy.