Arrests Of Five Americans In Turks And Caicos Spark Concerns Among Tourists

Arrests Of Five Americans In Turks And Caicos Spark Concerns Among Tourists

Five Americans are facing prison sentences of up to 12 years in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which has caused much concern among tourists. The Americans are being held on charges as they illegally carried ammunition to the upscale tourist destination in the Caribbean. 

This has led to much outcry here in the United States with a number of social media campaigns like “cancel Turks and Caicos” and “free Ryan Watson” as well as pleas for mercy for prominent figures like the governors of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Following an uptick in gun violence and weapons trafficking Turks and Caicos significantly tightened its gun laws in 2022. The island has been a hotspot for American tourists who are seeking luxury resorts, shops, and restaurants as well as pristine scuba-diving sites.

While the Americans may not face the full 12 years, the rise of restrictive laws makes it hard for them to be able to pay a fine and return home.

More about each arrest is below.

The official warning came only from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau (The Bahamas)

Following these arrests, the only official warning came from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau (The Bahamas). Issued on April 24, an alert for American Citizens says: “CHECK YOUR BAGS!  DO NOT BRING AMMUNITION/FIREARMS TO THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS”.

“Firearms, ammunition (including stray bullets), and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can result in a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years.” continues the warning.

Details about the arrests

Ryan Tyler Watson and his wife from Oklahoma were heading home in April after visiting the island for a birthday. Authorities found ammunition in his duffel bag which was unknowingly left after a hunting trip. While Watson’s wife was released and returned home, Ryan made bail and remains on the island awaiting a hearing in June. 

Michael Lee Evans from Texas pleaded guilty to possessing seven 9mm rounds of ammunition, while Bryan Hagerich from Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to possessing 20 rounds of rifle ammunition. Tyler Scott Wenrich, a 31-year-old from Virginia was arrested on April 20, 2024, after customs authorities found two bullets in his backpack.

Sharitta Shanise Grier from Orlando, Florida is due back in court in July after she was charged with one count of possession of ammunition.

Official U.S. Travel Advisory for Turks and Caicos remains un-updated

The U.S. Department of State’s latest Travel Advisory for Turks and Caicos Islands saw them categorized as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. According to the website, “The vast majority of crime occurs in Providenciales. Local medical care and criminal investigative capabilities are limited.”