Man Detained on Gun Charges in Turks and Caicos Doing ‘Okay’

Watson family
Watson family | Image by Go Fund Me Team fundraiser Jessica Byrd and Holly Faurot fundraisers/GoFundMe

Valerie Watson, the wife of Ryan Watson, who is awaiting trial in Turks and Caicos for accidentally bringing ammunition into the country, has told The Dallas Express her husband is ‘okay’ and that they talk via telephone every day.

She said that Ryan’s case was granted “expedited processing” on May 21, which may help resolve this difficult chapter in their lives faster. She also gave DX an update on Bryan Hagerich and Sharitta Grier, two other Americans facing charges under the island nation’s strict anti-gun laws. She noted that the three were staying together.

Hagerich had not yet been sentenced at the time of DX‘s correspondence. However, Valerie noted that his case would set a precedent for the others. Since DX communicated with Valerie, the island courts decided Hagerich would pay a nearly $7,000 fine and serve a 52-week suspended sentence, ABC 30 reported.

His sentence pales in comparison to the nation’s crime bill that sets out a 12-year minimum sentence for carrying guns or ammunition into the country, which many feared would be fully imposed against the Americans. The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas has since issued a warning to American travelers on the severe consequences of bringing ammunition into the small island nation.

The Watson’s troubles began last month when Turks and Caicos authorities detained Ryan and Valerie. They were traveling home from the Caribbean after a 40th birthday getaway and had four rounds of ammunition in their luggage.

Valerie told KOCO 5 News, an Oklahoma news broadcaster, that the ammunition had been in their luggage since they flew out of Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. Neither realized the ammunition was left over in the baggage, presumably used by Ryan on a “deer hunting” trip. TSA agents did not detect the bullets during screening when they initially departed from the Oklahoma airport.

Although they were detained together, Valerie was eventually released and allowed to travel back to the United States. Ryan was subsequently released on bond but has remained in Turks and Caicos awaiting court proceedings.

Gun Owners of America (GOA), a prominent pro-gun organization, rallied behind the couple, as previously reported by DX.

“This was nothing more than an innocent mistake, and the penalty this American citizen is facing as a consequence is egregious,” Aidan Johnston, GOA’s director of federal affairs, said. “Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that the Biden administration or the state department will have any sympathy for this gun owner since the Democratic Party supports identical gun control policies to this one in Turks and Caicos.”

“For example, in Washington D.C., you can face up to a decade in prison for merely possessing a ‘restricted pistol bullet’ or other ammunition without an unconstitutional ‘registration certificate,’” he added.

Johnston referred interested parties to § 7-2506.01 and § 7-2507.06 of D.C.’s penal code for more information.

The State Department referred DX to a statement given by officials during a press conference immediately after international news organizations first became aware of the story.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens overseas,” the official said. “We are aware of the arrests of U.S. citizens in Turks and Caicos. When a U.S. citizen is arrested, we stand by ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. But in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to the country’s laws even if they may differ from what is law in the United States.”

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