They laughed at her.
That’s what Shauntai Johnson, a 27-year-old Uber driver and mother of a 4-year-old, said happened when she tried to get help after youngsters armed with guns carjacked her vehicle near Lexington and Pulaski on Dec. 7.
She pulled into a parking area, looked down at her phone, and, when she looked up again, the armed carjackers had surrounded the vehicle.
“One of the persons came up and busted my door open, reached over me and tried to pull the keys out of the car while the car was still running,” Johnson says. “He shoved me to the side, and I started begging and pleading for my life and letting them know that I have a child.”
What happened next could be a scene straight out of a horror movie.
“I started to run and scream for help,” she says. “I noticed about a block or two away, there was a house party going on, and I yelled: ‘I am being robbed, I am being robbed!’ And they started to laugh. I started to panic even more.”
Johnson says she kept running until she ran into two seniors, and one of them called the police.
WGN-TV reported on Johnson twice, which led to donations and a GoFundMe campaign that raised $5,280 for her.
It’s the “they laughed at me” that makes this crime even more heinous.
Not one person in the crowd of partiers Johnson encountered had enough compassion to try to help a woman in need?
Worse yet, we continue to hear that these are teens who are stealing vehicles at gunpoint around Chicago. But I’ve heard very little about any plans to deal with this population. Where are children getting so many guns? And is there anything more police can do to hold the gun suppliers accountable?
There have been 352 carjackings in Chicago this year, according to the police, and some of these robbers are repeat offenders. The police recently charged a 14-year-old girl in four carjackings.
By now, there ought to be PSAs running like political ads on TV stations and on streaming services warning teenagers that carjacking could lead to a felony charge or worse.
The aftermath of a carjacking can be devastating for the victims if the vehicle doesn’t have full coverage.
When state troopers finally located Johnson’s car, what they found shocked her.
“The car was totally destroyed,” she says.
Johnson had only liability coverage on her 2012 Volkswagen.
“I am paying for a car that I don’t have,” she says. “I reached out to Uber. And, after the insurance company investigated and found the car only had liability, the company sent me a letter saying they couldn’t pay out.”
Johnson came to Chicago two years ago from Jamaica in search of a new beginning.
“This is a big setback,” she says. “You’ve got to have a vehicle to commute. When I first came to this country, I came here to work and go back to school.
“I’ve only been here two years, and I accomplished so much. I was able to bring my son back from Jamaica. I had a car. Now, my car is stolen, and it is hard to find a job.”
She’s paying for a car she no longer has. Without a car, it’s a challenge to hunt for another job. She still has to pay for rent, utilities and other necessities.
Even though she’s a crime victim, Johnson isn’t eligible for any payment through the Crime Victims Compensation Act of 1973, which provides for victims of violent crimes but doesn’t offer any compensation for property loss or pain and suffering.
“This is a terrible situation, and it is not something I would wish to happen to anybody,” Johnson says. “I can tell you all of [the carjackers] were kids. They were not grown people.”
Many of us are clear that we need police reform. This is a plea for some community reform.
And what happened to Johnson is not something young people should find funny.
That night shouldn’t happen anywhere in America, a place where some people risk their lives for the chance to call it home.