Invisible Injuries: Fake 911 call leads to Labor Day standoff for vet with PTSD

Invisible Injuries: Fake 911 call leads to Labor Day standoff for vet with PTSD
DJ McGranahan
DJ McGranahan

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - September 7, 2015.

It was Labor Day. And while most were enjoying a day off, a tense situation was unfolding in west Toledo.

A 32-year-old Army veteran found himself in a stand-off with police.

"I walked down my hallway, and I have a window down from my hallway, and I see a cop go like this from a tree and I go, 'What's going on? Why is there a cop out front?'" Donald McGranahan II, or DJ as his friends call him, described the first sign that something was off Labor Day morning.

"I go and I peek through my window, and there's an army of police officers in the street and they're yelling at me over a microphone," he recalled.

McGranahan says he called his best friend, mom and grandma, who all came to the scene.

"All the while, I'm in my house pacing like a caged lion, going from window to window," he said. "I see cops going in my driveway and they came in my backyard. [I was] completely surrounded. My first reaction? Defend yourself."

To better understand how he reacted, you have to understand where McGranahan has been. He served for four years in the US Army, two tours in Iraq.

The veteran and Purple Heart recipient was first diagnosed with PTSD during his second tour in Iraq.

"Having that constant 'fight or flight' every single day for a year, it rewires your brain," he explained. "Unfortunately, there's no way to fix that. I am who I am, and I'm going to be who I am for the rest of my life."

He says in the last two months he's given a lot of thought to what happened Labor Day.

"I reacted the way that I did because that's the way I was trained," he said. "That was engrained in me for four-and-a-half years of my life, to survive at all costs."

WTOL also sat down with Toledo Police Chief George Kral to talk about how the events unfolded on that hot September day.

Toledo police say it all started with a phone call.

The call came into their central district desk and then into the 911 call center. The caller claimed he shot his girlfriend and the body was on the porch of McGranahan's Gage Street home. The caller also said kids were tied up in the bathroom.

"Obviously, that's an incredibly urgent call," Chief Kral said.

On Gage Street, McGranahan wasn't coming out of the house to surrender. His family was telling police he was the victim.

He didn't make that call.

"We have to respond the way we're trained based on what we believe," Kral explained.

Police even contacted McGranahan's ex-girlfriend to make sure she was OK.

"After they went to my ex's house and found out she was alive and well, no children were involved, I believe they should have backed down," McGranahan said.

After more than two hours, McGranahan surrendered, coming out of his house wearing body armor.

"I had body armor on because all it takes is one of you guys with a happy trigger finger and that's the end of my life, to a man who has done nothing," he said.

"He was taken into custody, he was put in the back of a wagon, and at that time the SWAT team cleared the house to make sure there were no - thank god there was no injured people in there," Chief Kral said.

McGranahan says the SWAT team ripped an unlocked door off the hinges and gun safes off the wall, leaving large holes and damaging the safes to pry them open. WTOL shared his pictures of the damage with the chief, asking him if it was necessary to rip stuff off the wall once he was in custody.

"Remember why we were there: We were there because of a call of a person who may have shot someone," Kral responded.

He also said McGranahan was in an extremely agitated state that day, so they took the guns for safekeeping.

"There's no way, based on why we were there and Mr. McGranahan's emotional state, we couldn't leave firearms there," he said.

The chief didn't know if any officers on scene asked for the key to the safe before pulling them off the wall.

"They could have diffused the situation a lot more but they chose not to," McGranahan said.

The claims that McGranahan didn't make the call turned out to be true. There is still an open investigation, but police admit it appears someone else made the call that day pretending to be him.

It's called "swatting."

Swatting is an attempt to bring SWAT units to a given location for a fake emergency, and it's happening a lot all over the country.

"This swatting issue is going to be a challenge for law enforcement," the chief said. "But again, to keep Toledo safe, to keep the residents safe, to keep our officers safe, we have to respond the way we think the threat is."

Chief Kral says they have turned the case over to the FBI, and it's believed the same person who made the call could be responsible for several other similar fake 911 calls.

"That's what makes me mad at the person who did this," Kral said. "This gentlemen (McGranahan) went through a whole lot of anguish unnecessarily, as well as the Toledo Police Department who came out that afternoon."

McGranahan is still facing charges tied to that day.

"With all the evidence that was present at the time that they negated to look at, they should have, and the situation would have not gone as far as it did," McGranahan said.

"That is always something we are looking at, getting better at," Chief Kral admitted. "With more and more veterans coming back - I mean, I'm a veteran myself - the last thing we want to do is traumatize someone who is suffering who has served our country."

Kral says if this ever happens to you, the most important thing to do is comply with police and if it is a swatting issue or case of mistaken identity, it will be sorted out.

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