Americans detained in Turks and Caicos Islands after ammunition found in their luggage describe ‘nightmare’ situation: ‘So unreal’

A Florida grandmother was heading home with her daughter from a surprise Mother’s Day dream vacation to the Turks and Caicos Islands when it all turned into a nightmare. Airport security says they saw two bullets lodged under a flap in Sharitta Grier’s carry-on bag.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Grier, of Orlando, said in an interview on “CBS Mornings.” “It was so surreal to me. And all they kept saying was, ‘This is a serious charge, um, 12 years mandatory prison.’ 12 years?”

Grier, a grandmother, said she spent a few nights in jail.

“They chained me to a chair by my leg,” he said. “It’s cold. Scared. It was horrible. It was so horrible. I couldn’t sleep, there was no peace. A nightmare.”

Grier is one of five americans They face a possible mandatory 12-year prison sentence after being detained in the British territory for ammunition allegedly found in their luggage. The five Americans said they did not realize there was ammunition in their bag.

When asked how she thought the bullets ended up in her luggage, Grier said she locks the box that holds her ammunition and keeps it at the top of her closet when her grandchildren visit. She thinks it might have fallen into her luggage when she put it away.

“The only thing I can think of is that I put them on top of my closet, the ammunition fell out of the box into the suitcase, I’m going to say carry-on luggage, and they fell under it. That flap on the carry-on luggage doesn’t It was a way for me to see it. I couldn’t just open the bag and see it at the bottom,” he said. “I would have to remove the entire flap from the bottom of the suitcase to see it. It was impossible for me to see it, hear it or anything that was in that bag.”

Possessing a gun or ammunition is illegal in Turks and Caicos Islands, but previously it was punishable by a fine. In February, a court order required a mandatory prison sentence, even for tourists, in addition to payment of a fine.

Another of the five is ryan watsonA father of two from Oklahoma, who has been away from his family for more than 40 days, will appear in court next week.

Watson was arrested on April 12 when four rounds of hunting ammunition were found in his carry-on luggage while he and his wife, Valerie Watson, were trying to return home from a vacation. Valerie Watson is not facing charges and has returned to the couple’s children in Oklahoma.

“I wake up every day thinking it will make more sense to me, and it doesn’t,” Watson said. “I realize the kids are suffering. It’s probably too much weight for an adult to bear, um, let alone a 7 and 9 year old.”

Watson previously told CBS News that ammunition may have been left in his bag after he went to Texas on a hunting trip. The Transportation Security Administration acknowledged that its officials did not notice when the Watsons went through security in Oklahoma City at the beginning of their trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“We will never be able to stop everything we want to stop,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “So we have these bugs. We take them very seriously and do everything we can to find out why.”

Another tourist, Bryan Hagerich, a father of two from Pennsylvania, expects to be sentenced Friday, possibly providing a sign of what lies ahead for other Americans.

“I think Brian’s case will set a precedent for all of us,” Watson said. “We’re still praying a lot right now because, um, there are exceptional circumstances.”

Meanwhile, there is growing pressure on the tourist hotspot, with the American governors from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Oklahoma sending letters asking for clemency. A congressional delegation recently left the islands after meeting with top leaders.

“Like thousands of Americans each year, these individuals traveled to your beautiful territory for pleasure,” the US governors wrote. “We humbly ask that your government, in its wisdom, temper justice with mercy and recognize that these men made mistakes but had no apparent malicious intent.”

“They were very clear that there will be times for discretion and speed and everyone is on the same side in wanting this to come to light,” the Pennsylvania senator said. John Fetterman.

Charles Washington Misick, Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, give a speech” regarding the current situation at 10 a.m. EST on Thursday, his office announced on social media. It will mark Misick’s first public comments on the issue.

In a May 20 press release on the Turks and Caicos government website, it acknowledged the American delegation’s trip and said: “The Governor and the Prime Minister confirmed – in accordance with the constitutional separation of the executive and judicial powers – who cannot intervene or comment on ongoing legal cases before the courts explained that the Turks and Caicos Islands have clear laws prohibiting the possession of firearms and/or ammunition and strict penalties are in place to serve and protect all who do so. reside in and visit the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Grier, who has a court date on July 5, is trying to remain optimistic.

“You know, it’s hard, very hard. Because I have grandchildren. I have five grandchildren. I have three children. I have a loving family at home. I have a community,” he said. “I have a whole life at home. A whole life at home, you know? So it’s a lot.”

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