LIFESTYLE

American is flying home after getting suspended sentence for ammo possession in Turks and Caicos

May 24, 2024, 12:09 PM | Updated: 9:22 pm

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands (AP) — An American arrested in the Caribbean for illegally carrying ammunition received a suspended sentence Friday, according to a spokesperson for the Turks and Caicos Islands, and his spokesman said he was flying back to the United States.

Bryan Hagerich was sentenced to one year, suspended and fined $6,700, said Kimo Tynes, communications director for Premier C. Washington Misick and the Turks and Caicos government.

Hagerich, who lives in rural Somerset County in southwestern Pennsylvania, is among five Americans to face similar ammunition-related criminal charges in Turks and Caicos while visiting the upscale tourist destination about 600 miles (965 km) southeast of Miami.

The British territory adopted stricter gun laws in 2022 following a jump in gun violence and weapons trafficking. The U.S. State Department has cautioned travelers to Turks and Caicos to be vigilant about keeping guns and ammunition out of their luggage.

His lawyer, Oliver A. Smith, said that if Hagerich doesn’t get in trouble over the coming year he will not have to serve his sentence. He paid the fine, Smith said.

“He was anxious to be back home, back to his two children. He’s happy all this is behind him,” Smith said, adding that Hagerich was remorseful and had simply forgotten the ammunition was in his luggage when it was found as he was leaving Turks and Caicos.

On Friday afternoon, Hagerich’s spokesperson Jonathan Franks texted The Associated Press to say he was on a flight to Pittsburgh with Hagerich and family members.

“Very grateful to the Court for giving two very special kids their dad back,” Franks wrote in a post to the social media platform X. “Even more grateful to the numerous TCI nationals who helped along the way.”

Franks told the AP the judge’s decision “was exhaustively detailed and we appreciate the holistic approach she took to the case.”

In a statement, Misick said justice was served by the sentence.

“The Firearms Act includes consideration for exceptional circumstances and today’s decision reflects our commitment to judicial independence along with upholding the law,” Misick said, adding that “the law stands firm and applies to everyone equally, without exception.”

Hagerich previously pleaded guilty to possessing 20 rounds of rifle ammunition, according to an April 26 news release from the Communications Directorate. He had been on bail.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, of Pennsylvania, met with Hagerich and other Americans facing similar charges earlier this week.

“I’m hopeful that TCI expedites the rest of these cases and that the other detained Americans will soon be released and reunited with their families as well,” Fetterman said in a statement.

The governors of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia this month wrote the islands’ governor on behalf of three of the men charged who were from their states. They maintained they mistakenly took ammunition with them on vacation and did not have firearms.

Another American arrested in Turks and Caicos, Ryan Tyler Watson, of Oklahoma, was there to celebrate birthdays, a relative wrote on a GoFundMe page seeking donations for his legal defense. He has made bail but remains in that country with a June hearing scheduled.

The Turks and Caicos government has said others arrested there are Michael Lee Evans, 72, of Texas; and Tyler Scott Wenrich, 31, of Virginia.

Evans pleaded guilty last month to possessing seven 9mm rounds of ammunition and has been on bail, the island’s Communications Directorate said in late April.

A fifth American, Sharitta Shanise Grier, 45, of Orlando, Florida, was arrested for ammunition possession in April at the airport, the Royal Turks and Caicos Island Police said in a news release. Police said she was due in court in July.

Tynes, the government spokesperson, said Grier and Watson were in the courtroom Friday for Hagerman’s sentencing.

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This story has been corrected to show that Franks is Hagerich’s spokesperson, not his lawyer.

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American is flying home after getting suspended sentence for ammo possession in Turks and Caicos