Ohio Casino Swatting Suspect Appears in Court for Threatening Calls

Posted on: May 21, 2024, 10:27h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2024, 11:33h.

The teenager accused of being the mastermind behind a “swatting call” to Columbus, Ohio’s Hollywood Casino appeared in federal court on Monday.

Brayden Grace
Brayden Grace in a mug shot, pictured above, is accused in a series of swatting calls. (Image: WOSU)

Brayden Grace, 18, of Columbus, Ohio, was linked to the January 5 hoax call to the gaming property.

Grace, or one of his accomplices, allegedly called the casino and threatened to bomb the complex unless he got $100K. During a second call, a threat was made to undertake a mass shooting there.

After an initial investigation, FBI agents identified Grace as a suspect and placed him on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. When they came to apprehend him last Thursday, he was hiding behind a door in a local residence, according to Ohio TV station WBNS.

Agents said his hands were covered with pink hair dye, and his hair had been partially dyed pink, the report said. The change in hair color was an effort to make it harder for federal agents to recognize him, the report added.

Grace was charged with cyberstalking, interstate threatening communication, and threats to damage and destroy by means of firearms and explosives.

When he appeared in Ohio federal court, a prosecutor asked that Grace be jailed.

People around the country have died in swatting incidents. That’s why we argued so strenuously that Grace should remain detained,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Martinez said, WBNS reported.

“All of us have easy access to the internet,” Martinez was additionally quoted by Ohio TV station WSYX. “All it takes is wi-fi and a cellphone for an individual to engage in this kind of conduct and put people at risk.”

Typically, those who engage in swatting call 911 or other emergency numbers and claim hoax emergencies to get police to respond.

Leader of Group

Investigators say Grace and at least two other suspects made swatting calls to locations in several states between December and January. They were identified as members of a group, called “Purgatory,” which uses social media to “coordinate and plan their swatting activities and to announce swats that they conducted,” the feds revealed.

Grace has called himself “co-owner” of Purgatory, according to news reports.

Beyond the casino, other targets were a high school in Newark, Del., an airport in New York State, a trailer park in Alabama, and a residence in Eastman, Ga.

The callers used Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services to make it harder to track the calls. They also used social media sites such as Instagram and Telegram.

The other suspects were identified as Owen Jarboe, 18, of Hagerstown, Md., and Evan Strauss, 26, of Moneta, Va., according to Ohio radio station WOSU.

In 2021, Grace allegedly made a swatting call in East Palestine, Ohio. He claimed he had taken hostages and would murder them, according to WBNS. The call turned out to be a hoax.

Grace Was Abused, Uses Drugs

During Monday’s appearance, Grace’s attorney said he wanted him placed in a psychiatric facility where he could be monitored by a GPS device. The defense attorney claims Grace has emotional disorders and uses drugs.

In his youth, Grace lived in foster homes after his mother left him, and his grandmother later threw him out of her house.

He was abused by his mother’s partners, the lawyer further said.