Dumb: Serial carjacker abandons vehicle after 100 feet — because he can’t drive a stick shift, prosecutors say

Joshua Johnson | CPD

Prosecutors on Wednesday accused a Chicago man of carjacking three ride-hail drivers across the city in November — and he allegedly forced one of the victims to teach him how to drive a stick shift at gunpoint.

We told you last month about Uber and Lyft drivers’ suspicions that criminals have been using stolen phones to lure them into carjackings around Chicago. Yesterday, prosecutors confirmed those suspicions as they charged Joshua Johnson, 23, with multiple carjackings, robbery, and kidnapping. Each of his crimes targeted ride-hail drivers who were targeted after they responded to a call for service via the Uber or Lyft app, prosecutors said.

On November 21, a 33-year-old Lyft driver who answered a call for service picked Johnson and another man up near Hyde Park, prosecutors said. Johnson confirmed the name on the account that ordered the ride, got into the Lyft, and then demanded control of the car while pointing a 9-millimeter handgun at the driver, according to prosecutors.

The victim got out and Johnson took the man’s wallet and keys at gunpoint before climbing into the driver’s seat and coming face-to-face with something he had apparently never encountered before: a manual transmission.

Johnson, still wielding his firearm, ordered the victim to teach him how to drive the darn thing, prosecutors said. The Lyft driver gave Johnson a quick primer, then ran for help.

Police responded and the victim found his car abandoned about 100 feet down the road from where he allegedly gave Johnson the stick shift lesson.

A surveillance system inside the car captured footage of the entire incident, prosecutors said, including crystal clear images of Johnson in the driver’s seat without a mask and audio of the second carjacker referring to Johnson by his first name.

Prosecutors said the phone that was used to order the fateful Lyft ride was taken from its owner in an armed robbery earlier the same day.

Johnson is also accused of carjacking a 27-year-old Uber driver on November 10 on the Far South Side. After ordering a ride via the app, Johnson got into the victim’s car and asked him to drive to another location where an unidentified accomplice also got into the car, prosecutors said.

Once the second man was inside the car, he and Johnson allegedly displayed handguns and told the driver to get into the back seat. Johnson went through the man’s pockets, taking his wallet and phone and demanding that the man unlock the device, according to prosecutors.

Johnson then got into the driver’s seat and sped away, stopping only briefly three blocks later to push the victim out of the car, prosecutors alleged. Surveillance video later captured footage of Johnson and his accomplice running from the stolen vehicle, an assistant state’s attorney said during Johnson’s bond court appearance.

Earlier this month, Johnson and a woman were charged with attacking and carjacking an Uber driver who responded to a call for service in the suburbs on November 29.

In that case, Johnson allegedly beat the driver in the head with a metal flashlight while the woman pepper-sprayed the victim. Johnson and the woman ran onto I-294 when another motorist intervened in the carjacking, prosecutors said. Cops arrested the duo a short time later.

On December 1, a judge allowed Johnson to go home after posting a $500 deposit bond, prosecutors said.

He didn’t fare quite so well during his appearance before Judge Mary Marubio on Wednesday.

“The defendant is clearly a danger to the community as he’s luring ride-share drivers…who are just trying to earn money,” Marubio said before ordering Johnson held without bail.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com