American Tourists Threatened With Prison Over Hunting Ammo

An American tourist traveling in the Turks and Caicos Islands faces a court hearing this Friday that could decide whether he is at risk of up to 12 years in prison there. He has been detained for several weeks after he mistakenly left four rounds of hunting ammunition in his luggage from a previous trip to Texas.

Bryan Hagerich, a 39-year-old former baseball professional from Oklahoma, was detained in February after security personnel at the island’s airport discovered the ammunition during a routine luggage check. Hagerich was visiting the island with his family on vacation for the fourth time.

In an interview, Hagerich said he is hoping for leniency, given he has admitted his mistake and pleaded that it was an innocent oversight. He said, “As a father, it’s my responsibility to provide for my family, to protect my family, to support them in every way imaginable. And for me now, 75 days of not being able to do that, it’s just been catastrophic.”

Similarly, Ryan Watson from Oklahoma found himself in legal trouble when he was arrested earlier this month. Watson was apprehended after airport security found ammunition in their luggage. He described the incident as a “bonehead mistake.” The implications of this error are severe, with a potential 12-year minimum prison sentence looming for him as well. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has taken a vocal stance on Watson’s case, saying the man is a victim of a “shakedown” by foreign authorities. Stitt has promised to leverage all political resources available to secure his release.

The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas oversees U.S. affairs in Turks and Caicos. It has warned travelers to carefully check their luggage before traveling to the islands. Despite these precautions, the strict enforcement of local laws means even inadvertent errors can lead to significant legal trouble.

Hagerich’s attorneys are expected to plead his case in court this week. Watson, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear in court again on June 7. Their families, separated by thousands of miles, continue to hope for a resolution that will allow them to reunite.