Man gets 18 years for carjacking Uber and Lyft drivers across Chicagoland

A Chicago man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for carjacking a string of Uber and Lyft drivers, including one hijacking in which he ordered a victim to teach him how to drive a stick shift at gunpoint.

Joshua Johnson, 26, pleaded guilty to six felonies on Wednesday in connection with the crimes that occurred in the city and suburbs during late 2020. Judge Diana Kenworthy sentenced him to 18 years for one carjacking, 15 years for another carjacking, three 16-year sentences for a set of armed robberies, 15 years for an aggravated robbery, and five years for unlawful restraint, according to clerk of court records. The sentences will be served concurrently with a 50% reduction for good behavior.

Johnson’s victims told police they were targeted after responding to calls for service they received via the Uber or Lyft apps, prosecutors said.

On November 21, 2020, a 33-year-old Lyft driver picked Johnson and another man up near Hyde Park. 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 never encountered before: a manual transmission.

Johnson, still wielding his firearm, ordered the victim to teach him how to drive it, 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 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 and audio of the second carjacker referring to Johnson by his first name.

Joshua Johnson | Chicago Police Department; Stock Catalog – Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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 was also accused of carjacking a 27-year-old Uber driver on November 10, 2020, 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.

At that point, both men 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.

He then got into the driver’s seat and drove away, stopping briefly three blocks later to push the victim out of the car, prosecutors claimed.

On November 29, 2020, Johnson allegedly beat a rideshare driver with a metal flashlight while a female accomplice pepper-sprayed the victim. A witness intervened, and Johnson and the woman tried to escape by running onto I-294. Cops arrested them a few minutes later.

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com