American dad held in Turks and Caicos for having ammo in his luggage blasts State Department

American dad held in Turks and Caicos for having ammo in his luggage blasts State Department

Bryan Hagerich, a Pennsylvania man who was arrested in February in Turks and Caicos for having ammunition in his luggage before later being released, has slammed the US State Department for not doing enough to help Americans overseas.

"Which side of the table are they on?” Hagerich, a former pro baseball player, told Fox News. “Are they on the US side or are they on the Turks side?"

The father of two said he was in prison for two months before he was contacted by the State Department, and only believes the agency got interested once his story attracted media attention.

The Independent has contacted the US State Department for comment.

Hagerich was on vacation with his family when airport security arrested him for having 20 rounds of unspent ammunition in his luggage.

He was detained for more than 100 days and later pleaded guilty, facing a potential sentence of 12 years in jail.

The case attracted significant attention from US officials, and a bipartisan delegation of representatives visited the island nation in May to lobby for the release of five Americans overall who were being held in Turks and Caicos for similar offenses.

“We learned that this law unfairly targets Americans,” Rep Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican from Pennsylvania, wrote in Trib Live of his visit. “Other non-U.S. citizens charged in similar cases were allowed to leave the islands with just a simple fine and sent back to their country of origin.”

Turks and Caicos judge Tanya Lobban Jackson sentenced Hagerich to 52 weeks in prison with 12 months suspended, meaning he wouldn’t serve any jail time. He also had to pay a $6,500 fine.

The official cited Hagerich’s lack of a criminal background, the impact on his daughters, and the fact that he didn’t intentionally bring the ammunition with him.

"They recognized that Bryan and the other detained Americans are not gunrunners — they are just people who made a mistake,” US Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) later said of the decision in a statement. “I’m grateful that the judge recognized that the right thing to do was to send Bryan home."

Hagerich returned to the US on 24 May.

Other Americans remain in Turks and Caicos facing similar charges, including Ryan Watson of Oklahoma and Sharitta Grier of Florida.

Michael Wenrich, a Virginia man who was arrested in the country for having two rounds of ammunition in his backpack — leftover, he says, from a visit to the gun range — was released last week and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Turks and Caicos passed a series of strong gun laws two years ago amid a rise in violent crime and gun trafficking.