Airport security missed live ammo in tourists’ hand luggage. The TSA doesn’t know how

Airport security missed live ammo in tourists’ hand luggage. The TSA doesn’t know how

Since February, five Americans have been arrested for illegally carrying ammunition from the US to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

They all boarded flights at US airports, apparently unwittingly carrying the live rounds onto planes in their hand luggage.

They all bypassed airport security and scanners during routine checks in their states’ respective airports.

And, to some concern, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can’t explain how.

The agency said that it was launching an investigation into each individual incident back in May after admitting that an “oversight” had occurred.

Now, two months on, the TSA tells The Independent that the probe is now over – and concluded it doesn’t know how the ammo got past security in American airports.

Pressed for information on three specific incidents, the agency simply cited reasons such as “not enough information” or “no video” footage to “make that determination”.

Under US regulation, ammunition is banned from being carried in carry-on bags, a TSA spokesperson confirmed to The Independent. It can be carried in checked luggage under specific conditions.

Meanwhile, in Turks and Caicos, which has far more stringent gun laws than in the US, those caught with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can face a prison sentence of 12 years.

Louisiana Rep Garret Graves, chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, told The Independent that it’s a “concern” that the TSA has no idea how American tourists are managing to accidentally take ammo onto flights unnoticed.

Tyler Wenrich was arrested in April after two 9mm rounds were discovered upon boarding his cruise ship in Grand Turk (Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force)

“Obviously ammunition by itself isn’t quite as dangerous as having it with a weapon; the gun is the larger concern,” he told The Independent.

“But yes, absolutely, it is a concern.”

In April, Virginia resident Tyler Wenrich, 31, said he unwittingly carried two 9mm rounds in his hand luggage when he flew to Miami for a Royal Caribbean cruise to Grand Turk.

He also carried his ammo through the cruiseliner’s security scanner. Royal Caribbean has declined to comment.

“I went through TSA at Richmond International Airport, Virginia, where my backpack was put through the security scanner,” he told The Independent.

He said he got through security without the ammo being picked up on.

Oklahoma father-of-two Ryan Watson, 40, said he accidentally carried four high-calibre hunting rounds in his hand luggage through Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City in April. The ammo also went unnoticed by airport security.

Ryan Watson, left, and his wife Valerie, appearing on Good Morning America (screengrab/Good Morning America)

And Florida local Sharitta Grier, 45, was arrested in May after she unwittingly carried two rounds through Orlando Airport in her hand luggage. She told WESH that security staff in Florida confiscated her lotion, but not the ammo, during a search of her bag.

The three – along with two other Americans Michael Lee Evans and Bryan Hagerich – were all individually arrested by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force for illegal possession of ammunition.

They all pleaded guilty and all – with the exception of Grier – have since returned to the US after paying fines and being handed suspended sentences. Grier is now the last to remain held in the Caribbean as she awaits sentencing on July 11.

Following the separate arrests of Wenrich and Watson in the Caribbean, the TSA announced in May it had launched an investigation into how the “oversight occurred”.

“There was no video available due to the time that passed between the passenger’s trip through the checkpoint and our first inquiry from the media. So we were unable to make a determination,” a TSA spokesperson told The Independent in reference to Wenrich’s case.

In a separate statement, the spokesperson said of Watson’s case: “TSA acknowledged that four rounds of ammunition were missed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

“However, there was not enough information available to us about the screening date, time and location at Richmond International Airport to make a determination.”

Sharitta Grier is the last of the five Americans arrested for possessing ammo in Turks and Caicos to be sentenced (Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force)

The TSA acknowledged it “likely missed” Grier’s rounds at Orlando International Airport, but again lacked the information to “make a determination” how.

When probed how the TSA will stop those with more malign intentions from packing small, prohibited items such as a pocket knife, in their carry-on luggage, the spokesperson responded: “TSA is very confident in its ability to detect dangerous prohibited items at security checkpoints.”

It added: “TSA continuously seeks to improve internal security within the secure area beyond the checkpoint, ensuring that everyone beyond the TSA checkpoint is safe from prohibited items, including unauthorised weapons, explosives and incendiaries.”

In fact, the TSA has sought to push the onus back onto travelers to check their hand luggage more thoroughly before traveling.

“Loose ammunition can be easily missed in a carry-on/checked bag when a firearm is not present and represents one of the reasons TSA recommends beginning to pack for travel with an entirely empty bag to ensure against unintentionally traveling to the checkpoint with prohibited items,” the spokesperson said.