Mom speaks out after daughter is detained for bringing ammo to the Caribbean

Sharitta Shinese Grier is the fifth American to be detained in the Turks and Caicos Islands since February for carrying ammunition into the British territory

James Liddell
Monday 20 May 2024 17:38 BST
Detained in Turks and Caicos for ammo in luggage

A mother has spoken out after her daughter made the “horrible mistake” of carrying ammo into a Caribbean airport.

Willie Lucas shared her heartbreak after being forced to leave her daughter, Sharitta Shinese Grier, on the Turks and Caicos Islands as she returned to their Florida home.

Ms Grier, 45, faces up to 12 years in prison after she walked into the airport carrying rounds of ammunition in her luggage.

She is the fifth American since February to be caught carrying ammunition into an airport in the Caribbean archipelago – all of whom are currently awaiting their fate and living together in a rental property on the island.

Ms Lucas was forced to leave her daughter in the hands of authorities and return to the sunshine state 600 miles away, attesting she “didn’t want to come home”.

The mother continues to ask for prayers for her daughter’s safe return and warns others to be vigilant and avoid mistakenly bringing ammo into an airport.

Sharitta Shinese Grieris is currently staying in an Airbnb with the other five Americans facing trial
Sharitta Shinese Grieris is currently staying in an Airbnb with the other five Americans facing trial (Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force)

“Be safe when you go out of town. Just be safe. Be careful and keep us in your prayers, [because] God knows we sure gonna need it,” she told Fox 35 Orlando.

Chanchy Willis, Ms Grier’s cousin, also let her grievances be known, adding: “Just for two bullets? It was just a horrible mistake for all five,” Willis said.

After posting bail and awaiting to see a judge on 5 July, Ms Grier joins Ryan Watson of Oklahoma, Tyler Wenrich of Virginia, Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania, and Michael Lee Evans of Texas in an Airbnb.

Mr Evans has been allowed to return to the US, but will have to wait until after his official sentencing next month. Currently, none of the five are allowed to leave the island.

Those traveling to Turks and Caicos caught with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can face a minimum prison sentence of 12 years.

Mr Watson, 40, is one of those being detained alongside Ms Grier in the British territory.

Airport security combed through his carry-on luggage to find several large bullets from a hunting rifle on 12 April. Staff at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma missed the rounds during a security check and are investigating the “oversight”.

Ryan Watson posted $15,000 bail but still faces 12 years in prison
Ryan Watson posted $15,000 bail but still faces 12 years in prison (Supplied)

The dad-of-two posted a $15,000 bail and fears that the threat of jail might mean he misses out on watching his two children – aged seven and nine – grow up.

“I’ve never wanted something so badly in my life as badly as I want to see them,” he told The Independent earlier this month.

Valeria Watson, Mr Watson’s wife, added that the US embassy in Turks and Caicos “hasn’t really been able to do a whole lot”.

Mr Wenrich, 31, was arrested on 20 April after customs authorities found two stray nine-millimeter rounds in his backpack at an airport. He claimed he’d previously taken the bag to a shooting range.

He was able to get through security at an airport in Richmond before he flew to Miami for a cruise to the Caribbean islands. He spent a total of 12 days behind bars before having his bail granted.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt was one official to voice their disdain
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt was one official to voice their disdain (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mr Hagerich, 39, of Somerset County has been held on the island since being detained in February after he was caught carrying hunting ammunition in his luggage at the airport, allegedly unbeknownst to him.

The dad-of-two was ordered to stay on the island for another three weeks until his sentencing, a judge ruled on 10 May. He’s been stuck on the island for more than 90 days.

Mr Evans, 72, was granted $20,000 bail before being permitted to return to Texas as he’s said to be suffering from a medical condition.

The arrests have prompted furor across the US, leading to governors of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia pleading with Turks and Caicos officials.

In a letter last week to the islands’ governor, they said the three men – Mr Watson, Mr Hagrich, and Mr Wenrich – charged from their states inadvertently took ammunition with them on vacation. They were not carrying firearms.

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