Man gets 8 years for bizarre Uptown home invasion

Johnny McDowell was arrested outside the Joseph Brennemann School. | CPD; Google

A man accused of invading a friend’s home and pulling the trigger while pointing a handgun at the man’s face — only to have the gun jam — has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Johnny McDowell pleaded guilty to one count of home invasion causing bodily injury in exchange for the sentence from Judge Shelley Sutker-Dermer. Prosecutors dropped ten other felonies in the plea deal, including attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The strange tale began on March 8, 2021, when the 26-year-old victim woke up to the sound of McDowell breaking into his home in the 800 block of West Eastwood. Prosecutors said a relative of McDowell’s also lives at the address, but the victim had only seen McDowell once.

At that point, McDowell, who was 32 at the time, began to argue with the man and pulled out a gun that he began waving around while threatening to kill the victim, prosecutors said during an initial bail hearing.

He allegedly punched the victim twice in the face and demanded that he empty his pockets while holding the man at gunpoint. According to prosecutors, McDowell ordered the victim to smoke marijuana with him after obtaining the man’s phone, cash, credit cards, Apple Watch, and marijuana.

According to the allegations, McDowell became angry about a comment the victim made after smoking up, and he punched the man in the face twice before pistol-whipping him in the head twice.

The attack caused the man to experience convulsions, and McDowell threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop shaking, prosecutors said.

At that point, McDowell allegedly pointed the gun at the man’s face and pulled the trigger. But the gun jammed. McDowell allegedly cleared the gun, reloaded it, racked the slide, and then placed it on the kitchen table.

Shortly before 4 p.m., the victim told McDowell that he had to pick up a child at Brennemann School, which McDowell allegedly confirmed by calling the child’s mother.

Prosecutors claimed that the men got into the victim’s car and drove him to the school, 4251 North Clarendon, while McDowell held him at gunpoint and told him not to do anything stupid.

When the victim entered the school, he sought assistance from school personnel. According to a CPD report, McDowell was found sitting outside the school in the victim’s Jeep when police arrived.

According to prosecutors, police recovered the victim’s ID, phone, credit cards, and Apple watch from McDowell and discovered a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat.

According to state records, McDowell is scheduled to be released from prison on February 28, 2025.

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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