Oklahoma man praises God in emotional return to US after ammo arrest in Turks and Caicos

Oklahoma man praises God in emotional return to US after ammo arrest in Turks and Caicos

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An Oklahoma man credited his faith with helping his family get through a “concerning” situation in Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), where he faced 12 years in prison when four stray bullets were found in his luggage, he told “Fox and Friends” after returning home.

Ryan Watson, 40, from Edmond, was arrested in April at the country’s main airport and was detained after he accidentally left the ammunition inside his carry-on bag. 

After months of negotiations, which involved a bipartisan congressional delegation flying to Turks and Caicos in May, Watson received a suspended 13-week jail sentence and a fine of $2,000 – or $500 per bullet – on Friday, according to family spokesman Jonathan Franks.


Ryan Watson kisses his wife, Valerie Watson, outside of court in Turks and Caicos, Friday, June 21, 2024. The Oklahoma man who was facing 12 years in prison in Turks and Caicos after authorities found stray bullets in his luggage. (Jonathan Franks/LUCID Strategies)

Watson and his wife Valerie appeared on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday, when they praised their faith and local lawmakers for helping to get him home.

“Our faith is so strong, I don’t know if we would have made it through any other way,” Valerie said. “I mean the Lord definitely carried us through, and we saw him working in every single aspect, from the very beginning of this entire thing.”

The couple said Oklahoma Sens. Markwayne Mullin and James Lankford, along with Gov. Kevin Stitt, were instrumental in securing Ryan’s release and return. 

“They all worked around the clock that very first weekend, and they didn’t stop until Ryan set foot back in Oklahoma,” Valerie said. “So they worked really hard for us. And, you know, Senator Mullin put together the congregational delegation and it was really effective. I think it put a lot of pressure on TCI to kind of rethink some of the ways that they were handling things down there on the island.”

Watson said he had taken the bag on a hunting trip to Texas last fall but does not recall ever putting the bullets in the bag. He said the bullets were found underneath a lining in his bag.

“I didn’t realize it, but that duffel bag has a lining, zips out, and they somehow managed to get underneath that lining,” Watson said. He did not have a gun on him and previously told Fox News Digital he had no intention of bringing ammunition on his vacation.

The island nation has strict rules and stiff penalties for those carrying ammunition. There is no constitutional right to carry firearms in Turks and Caicos, and the law prohibits anyone from keeping, carrying, discharging or using an unlicensed firearm or ammunition. 


Watson said it was frightening to think he was facing 12 years in prison.

“None of it made sense….. it got real concerning real quick,” he told “Fox and Friends.”

He also thanked his faith when speaking to reporters on Friday.

“This is such an answered prayer… I’ve prayed for this for 70 days now,” Watson said. “To see God working this way, it’s pretty incredible.” 

Ryan told “Fox and Friends” Tuesday that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) later admitted it failed to spot the bullets on his way out of the U.S. Watson criticized the U.S. Embassy in Turks and Caicos and said that it did not help him.

Ryan Watson with his family

From left to right, Valerie Watson stands next to her husband, Ryan Watson, who holds his passport as he poses with his mom, Susan Fendley, and stepfather, Terry Fendley, in Turks and Caicos on Friday, June 21, 2024. Ryan Watson was detained for possessing ammunition in the island nation. (Jonathan Franks/LUCID Strategies)

“They did nothing… and it really revealed to me that there are probably many other families that are affected abroad that are not receiving any aid or care from the State Department, as we speak.”

A State Department spokesperson previously told Fox News Digital that the State Department, as well as U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, make the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas their highest priority.

Whenever a U.S. citizen is detained in a foreign country, the State Department seeks immediate access to visit that person, the spokesperson said.

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, the State Department stands ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance, the spokesperson said, adding that U.S. citizens are typically subject to a foreign country’s laws when they travel there, even if those laws differ from those in the U.S. 

Due to privacy considerations, the State Department did not provide further comment on the Americans recently arrested in Turks and Caicos.

After the sentencing, the judge urged American travelers bound for Turks and Caicos to double-check their bags and asked the TSA to screen outgoing travelers.

Watson is one of at least five Americans arrested this year who were arrested for violating Turks and Caicos’ ammunition law.

The country’s parliament agreed unanimously this month to revise the new ordinance after “a great deal of flacking” from American lawmakers, the country’s Newsline TCI reported.

“This legislative change is a critical step in ensuring our legal system is both just and flexible,” the parliament’s opposition leader Edwin Astwood told The Sun TCI, another local paper. “It acknowledges that not all cases are alike and that our judges must have the ability to consider all factors and impose sentences that are truly just and appropriate.”

He said the goal is to uphold the rule of law — but also to differentiate between genuine threats and people who make a mistake.

A silhouette representing Michael Lee Evans (left), Bryan Hagerich (second from left), Tyler Wenrich (middle), Ryan Watson (second from right) and Sharrita Grier (right)

Five Americans have been arrested in Turks and Caicos since February for carrying ammo in airports on the island. From left to right: Michael Lee Evans (no photo), Bryan Hagerich, Tyler Wenrich, Ryan Watson and Sharitta Grier. (Turks and Caicos Police/ Dimitrios Kambouris )

The other Americans charged under the ordinance include Bryan Hagerich, a 39-year-old Pennsylvania father of two and former professional baseball player, who came home after more than 100 days in jail after the court agreed to fine him $6,500 and avoid prison.


Texas’ Michael Lee Evans, 72, pleaded guilty to possessing seven rounds of ammunition, according to The Sun TCI. He was still awaiting sentencing but had been allowed to return to the U.S. due to a serious illness, according to authorities.

Virginia’s Tyler Wenrich was freed in May after paying a $10,000 fine. Sharitta Grier, of Florida, is also awaiting her sentencing.

Fox News’ Audrey Conklin and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.

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