Virginia Man Finally Returns Home After Hellish Island Vacation

by Vern Evans
Tyler Wenrich, Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force Photo

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For those who are keeping track, three of the five Americans being held in Turks and Caicos for accidentally having stray ammo in their bags, have now been released with hefty fines and time served. Last week, Tyler Wenrich, a 31-year-old emergency medical technician from Louisa County, Virginia, returned home the same day it was being reported that an Oklahoma man, Ryan Watson, who was found to have five rounds of hunting ammunition in his bag, was pleading guilty of that possession and hoping for the same outcome.

ABC News reports Wenrich was initially arrested on April 20 after customs authorities at a security checkpoint discovered two 9mm bullets in his backpack. He had traveled to Grand Turk for a bachelor party and said he had forgotten about the ammunition after a trip to a gun range with friends. Under the strict gun laws of Turks and Caicos, possessing a firearm or ammunition can result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison.

Wenrich’s case, however, resulted in a more lenient sentence. After pleading guilty on May 21 to two counts of possession of ammunition, he was sentenced to three weeks in jail and fined $9,000. Since he had already spent three weeks in custody, his sentence was considered time served, allowing him to return home once the fine was paid. He

The court’s decision was influenced by what Justice Davidson Baptiste described as “exceptional circumstances.” The judge noted that enforcing the mandatory minimum would have been “arbitrary and disproportionate” and would not serve the public interest. Kimo Tynes, director of communications for the Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, emphasized the importance of vigilance and adherence to local regulations by all visitors.

Wenrich’s wife, Jeriann, expressed their relief and happiness following the sentencing.

“We ended up having to be at immigration for a while because the cruise line didn’t stamp Tyler’s passport, but we are so happy and so elated that we can actually go home now,” she said. Wenrich himself shared his relief, stating, “A weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

The Wenrichs’ ordeal is part of a broader trend of similar arrests in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In recent months, five Americans have been charged under the firearms ordinance for having small amounts of ammunition in their luggage. Notably, Bryan Hagerich of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to a suspended 52-week sentence and fined $6,700.

With the fine paid and the legal hurdles cleared, the Wenrichs flew back to Virginia on Thursday, where Tyler was eagerly looking forward to reuniting with his 18-month-old son, from whom he had been separated for six weeks .

This case underscores two key points:

  1. Whenever traveling, make double sure your bag does not have any firearms or ammunition in them if traveling somewhere this will create a legal problem. As a best practice, for bags you use when flying or traveling to states with more stringent gun laws, never use them in conjunction with shooting or hunting locally. Always have a bag you never put firearms or ammunition in and use that one when traveling.
  2. If you planned on going to Turks and Caicos, screw them. Change your plans and stay away from that island country. While we should all respect the laws of other lands, such stringent treatment of people who clearly made an honest mistake, is disconcerting. Our American dollars are best spent elsewhere. Let the island return to the crappy banana republic from whence it came. (While we’re blackballing places to go, stay out of New Jersey, Illinois, New York and California, too. They are as bad as Turks and Caicos and have crappier beaches.)

The Virginia Citizens Defense League hopes to have Wenrich speak at a future event to discuss his ordeal.

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