American woman charged after ammunition found in baggage in Turks and Caicos: Police

American woman charged after ammunition found in baggage in Turks and Caicos: Police
Turks and Caicos officers stand outside a police station. (ABC News/Nightline)

(NEW YORK) — Police in Turks and Caicos have charged an American woman with ammunition possession — a crime that carries a minimum penalty of 12 years — after airport officials alleged they found illegal ammunition in her luggage.

Sharitta Shinise Grier, 45, of Orlando, Florida, was visiting Turks and Caicos with her daughter for Mother’s Day when, during a routine search at the Howard Hamilton International Airport Monday, officials claim to have found two rounds of ammunition in her bag, police said.

Grier and her daughter were both arrested, though the daughter was later released.

Officials confirmed Wednesday the mother had been charged. She is expected in court on Thursday, officials said. Attorney information for the defendant wasn’t immediately available.

Two years ago, the Turks and Caicos government tightened their gun laws and prohibited civilian firearms or ammunition. If convicted, offenders are sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison.

It is illegal to transport firearms or ammunition to or from any of the Caribbean countries without a license, according to U.S. laws.

She is the fifth American to be charged under Turks and Caicos’ gun laws this year.

Grier’s arrest and charging comes as several U.S. governors released a letter asking the Caribbean island’s governor to release three men who have been jailed for weeks over similar charges.

Ryan and Valerie Watson of Oklahoma were arrested on April 24 after hunting ammunition was found in Ryan Watson’s carry-on bag before they flew home. Valerie Watson’s charges were dropped, and she was allowed to fly back to the U.S.

Her husband was released on $15,000 bond but remains on the island as his court case continues.

Ryan Watson told ABC News he didn’t know the ammunition was in the bag.

Bryan Hagerich, of Pennsylvania, is awaiting sentencing on the island after pleading guilty to possession of 20 rounds of ammunition.

Hagerich, who was arrested in February, told ABC News he forgot hunting ammunition was in his bag while he was traveling.

“I’m a man of character, integrity. I did not have intent in this,” Hagerich previously said.

Michael Lee Evans, 72, of Texas, also pleaded guilty to possession of seven 9mm rounds of ammunition in his luggage and is awaiting sentencing.

Tyler Scott Wenrich, 31, was charged on April 23 when officials found illegal ammunition during a checkpoint on Turks and Caicos while he was traveling on a cruise, investigators said.

The incidents have sparked calls from the defendants’ families and U.S. officials who allege the island’s laws and penalties are too strict.

On Wednesday, Governors Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia sent a joint letter to Turks and Caicos Gov. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam to release Watson, Hagerich and Wenrich.

“This action will create the necessary recognition of your laws that will impact the future actions of travelers and continue our mutual interest in justice and goodwill between our jurisdictions,” the letter read.

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