Two teens accused of a violent carjacking in November are the first to face stiff federal charges as part of a collaborative effort between Chicago police and federal authorities to curb a surge of carjackings in recent months.
“Anyone who commits a crime like this should know, we are coming for you,” Jeffrey Sallet, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, warned in a statement.
The indictment, made public Friday, charged Jason Dortch, 19, and Davontae Jones, 18, both of Chicago, with vehicular hijacking and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Dortch is also charged with unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.
The two were already being held without bond while awaiting trial on state charges stemming from the same incident.
The federal charges, however, significantly increase their potential sentences if convicted. The most serious charge in Friday’s indictment carries up to life in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Although not directly related, the charges come a month after Chicago police and federal authorities announced the formation of a new task force meant to more aggressively work to arrest and prosecute carjackers, including using federal charges where appropriate.
“We’re not playing around,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in announcing the task force Feb 4. “If they want to continue to go out there and take the easy path to taking someone’s vehicle, then we are going to take that (federal) path to punish them to the fullest extent of the law that we can.”
Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Lausch, said the case against Jones and Dortch actually began before the formation of the carjacking task force, but the charges were sought as part of the same overall effort.
The Chicago Tribune first reported on the spike in carjackings across the city in a front-page story in November. Since then, the city has continued to see an increase in vehicular hijackings. There were 86 carjackings reported in January, compared with 72 in January 2017, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Numbers for February were not available as of Friday.
The city recorded about 1,000 carjackings in 2017, the highest number in at least a decade, according to police statistics.
Jones and Dortch, both of the 2700 block of West Polk Street, were accused of approaching two men in the 800 block of North Racine Avenue on Nov. 13, demanding money and the keys to a Jeep Cherokee. One of the victims initially refused to comply with the demand and was struck with a weapon, resulting in a head laceration, prosecutors said in November. The man then handed over the keys.
After fleeing in the vehicle, the two led officers on a chase on the Eisenhower Expressway in Oak Park, police said at the time. They are accused of hitting multiple vehicles during the chase, including a marked police vehicle, an unmarked FBI vehicle and a civilian vehicle, prosecutors said. Law enforcement officials suffered injuries and received treatment at a hospital, prosecutors said.
Jones and Dortch were arrested after striking a concrete wall and fleeing by the elevated tracks near the Austin stop, police said. Police also recovered a gun with an extended clip near an expressway median.
At the time, police said the pair was suspected of being part of a carjacking ring responsible for as many as a dozen similar incidents over a span of just a few days. No charges have been filed in connection with any of those incidents, however.
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