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American tourist facing prison in Turks and Caicos over ammunition says he's soaking up FaceTime with his kids back home

U.S. man on his arrest in Turks and Caicos
American tourist detained in Turks and Caicos speaks out 06:07

An American tourist who's facing over a decade behind bars in the Turks and Caicos islands after ammunition was found in his luggage said Monday he's trying to FaceTime with his children back home as much as possible in case he ultimately goes to prison.

"I've been told that there's, you know, quite a bit of restricted communication while you're in prison, and so I'm just trying to soak up as much of that as I can," Ryan Watson, a 40-year-old father of two from Oklahoma, told CBS News.

Watson is out on bail, but he said he can't leave the country and has to check in at a local police station twice a week. He's facing a potential mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years behind bars.

Tourists aren't allowed to possess guns or ammunition in Turks and Caicos. They've been allowed to pay a fine in the past, but a court order in February mandated that tourists be subjected to prison time.

"It's something that I'm deeply, deeply sorry for," Watson said Monday. "I completely respect their laws and, you know, stand behind what they're trying to accomplish with their gun laws, but I just still pray that there's some consideration that there was zero intent behind this and this was 100% a mistake and an accident."

Watson said he didn't intend to break any laws while visiting the country with his wife earlier this month.

"I don't see how imprisoning me is going to help them in any way, you know, but, yeah, that's not my decision to make unfortunately," he told CBS News.

Watson was arrested April 12 when four rounds of hunting ammunition were found in his carry-on luggage as he and his wife Valerie Watson were trying to head home after a vacation in the British territory. Valerie Watson isn't facing charges and returned to the couple's 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter in Oklahoma last week.

Ryan Watson is seen during an interview with CBS News on April 29, 2024.
Ryan Watson is seen during an interview with CBS News on April 29, 2024. CBS News

Watson earlier told CBS News the ammunition may have been left in his bag after he went to Texas on a hunting trip. The Transportation Security Administration acknowledged its officers missed it when the Watsons went through security in Oklahoma City at the start of their trip to Turks and Caicos.

Watson is one of several Americans who have been detained in the territory in recent months under similar circumstances. Michael Grim from Indiana served almost six months in prison after pleading guilty to having ammunition in his checked bag.

"No clean running water. You're kind of exposed to the environment 24/7," he told CBS News. "Mosquitoes and tropical illnesses are a real concern."

Watson hopes the U.S. State Department will help find a resolution for all the Americans whose cases are pending in Turks and Caicos.

"It's tearing families apart right now," he said, "and I've got two kids at home that- their little hearts don't understand what's going on."

Kris Van Cleave contributed reporting.

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