Man detained abroad after hunting bullets found in luggage, East Texas travel agent offers vacation advice

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A Fort Worth native is wondering when she will see her husband again, after they were both arrested in Turks and Caicos because hunting bullets were found in his bag. KETK spoke with the man’s sister and an East Texas travel agent on the one thing that must be done before heading to the airport.

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Jessica Byrd has always known her brother as a hunter and responsible gun owner, but she never knew how quickly a few hunting bullets could turn their lives upside down.

“It’s something you never think could happen to you,” Byrd said. “It’s daunting.”

Byrd’s brother, Ryan Watson and his wife Valerie were on a trip to Turks and Caicos to celebrate his 40th birthday, only to be arrested at the airport on their way back, when four bullets were found in his bag. Having any ammunition is illegal on the islands.

“He didn’t even realize it was in there because, again, he had taken stuff out of there, and Valerie had put makeup in her bag and taken it out multiple times, and it was not visible to the eye,” Byrd said.

The Transportation Security Administration confirmed with KETK, “an oversight occurred that the agency is addressing internally.”

Ryan and Valerie were bailed out, and Valerie was able to leave the island but had to leave her husband behind.

“Not being with his kids right now is what’s hurting him the most,” Byrd said.

He could now be facing a minimum 12-year prison sentence.

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“The prison is inhumane to say the least, and it’s scary,” Byrd said.

However, Ryan is not the only one who has made this mistake. According to a travel agent in Lindale, Rudy Rodriguez, incidents like this have happened to several of his clients right here in East Texas.

“I mean, this could affect you for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “I know a young boy that took a bullet to another country.”

This is mainly because people forget to look through their luggage, or they don’t research the laws in other countries.

“It’s the last thing in priorities. The only thing people are thinking about is going on vacation, laying on that beach,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that’s the importance of having a travel agent – someone who can help you research the laws. If you don’t have an agent, he recommends going to the U.S. Department of State website, or the country’s embassy to learn about the laws.

With summer coming up and many families planning their next vacation, both Rodriguez and Byrd are warning people to do their research and double check their bags.

“You might have put something in your zipper. You forgot about it, and then it’ll be too late after that,” Rodriguez said.

Byrd said even an honest mistake can change everything.

“Going forward, if I ever am leaving the country, I’ll definitely start looking at rules and regulations and stuff, something I never did before,” Byrd said.

TSA advises to start packing with an empty bag. Here is the full statement from the administration:

“TSA takes its security mission very seriously. TSA can confirm that four rounds of ammunition were not detected in the traveler’s bag during security screening at Will Rogers World Airport (OKC), which was the originating airport. Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on bags and passengers are responsible for the contents of their luggage.

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TSA is here to protect our transportation security systems, and an oversight occurred that the agency is addressing internally. We encourage passengers to start packing with an empty bag, and when traveling internationally, to be cognizant of local laws.  For additional information, please contact the State Department and law enforcement officials in Turks.”

Ryan is out of jail after posting bond, but he is stuck on the island until his hearing on June 7th.

Byrd created a GoFundMe for their family, saying she wanted to help relieve the financial stress of this situation, since he cannot work.


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