July carjacking in Uptown draws federal charges for accused man

Michael C. Pearson | CPD

Federal charges have been filed against a man who allegedly shot at a woman during a harrowing carjacking in Uptown on July 28. Michael C. Pearson, age 18, had been facing state charges of armed vehicular hijacking and kidnapping.

A federal grand jury has now indicted Pearson on felony counts of carjacking and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. The firearm charge carries a maximum sentence of life in federal prison, while the carjacking charge is punishable by up to 15 years, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.

The federal indictment is part of the Department of Justice’s “Operation Legend” initiative that is stepping up prosecution of violent crimes and gun offenses in major cities.

During a state court appearance last month, an assistant state’s attorney said Pearson and two juveniles decided to carjack the woman because they were tired of walking.

The woman, age 26, and her 27-year-old female roommate were removing a dresser from the rear seat of a car on the 800 block of West Windsor when Pearson and the juveniles approached them around 3:36 p.m.

One of the juveniles took the older woman’s car keys at gunpoint and got into the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, the younger woman became stuck between the dresser, the passenger seat, and the rear seat as Pearson tried to pull her out, prosecutors said.

As the woman screamed that she was stuck, Pearson allegedly got into the front passenger seat, and the juvenile sped away with her hanging out of the rear door. The second juvenile walked away from the scene.

Prosecutors described a chaotic scene as the trapped woman hung from the back passenger door, waving her arms as the car sped down the street, and Pearson pointed a gun at her head.

“He was trying to get her to jump out of a moving car at gunpoint while she was flailing,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

The woman reported feeling a “puff of air” pass her head as she held her eyes closed in prayer. The “puff of air” was a bullet from Pearson’s gun flying past her head, according to Murphy. Pearson allegedly claimed that his firearm “just went off” during the episode.

“All she could do is close her eyes and pray for her life as a bullet whizzed past her head,” Murphy told Judge Charles Beach.

Police said the stolen car crashed into a parked vehicle near Hutchinson and Clarendon moments later. The driver ran away and was arrested a short time later.

But the impact of the collision threw the victim on top of Pearson, and the two became entangled while struggling for control of the handgun, Murphy said. Pearson eventually freed himself and ran from the scene with the gun, according to allegations.

Surveillance cameras recorded much of the initial carjacking as well as the struggle for control of the gun, according to Murphy.

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