A Brooklyn man is facing weapons and carjacking charges because of his role in a series of armed Queens and Long Island carjackings that began in December, federal prosecutors said.
John Howard, 49, of Brooklyn, was arraigned before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court. The charges include three counts of carjacking; and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm.
Prosecutors said in one case, Howard shot a 53-year-old woman in the chest when she did not comply with his demands, leaving her in critical condition.
“Howard’s targets were victims of harrowing crimes, the likes of which we have not seen in some time,” said Eastern District U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in a statement. “This violence simply will not be tolerated, as Howard will now face the consequences of his acts in federal court.”
Capers announced the charges, along with Delano Reid, special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives New York field office and NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton.
On Dec. 18, prosecutors said, Howard tried to break in to a home on Ash Street in Valley Stream at about 7 p.m. While fleeing, he went about a half-mile and approached a white Volkswagen Jetta parked in front of a pizzeria on West Merrick Road.
“You know what this is. If you want to see your family and not be on the news, give me your money,” he told the woman inside, according to the criminal complaint. Howard then took $40 in cash from the woman and forced her out of the car at gunpoint before driving away in the Jetta.
Ten days later, a similar crime was reported in Jamaica, Queens. On Dec. 28, a man was sitting in a Best Western parking lot, at 153rd Lane in Jamaica, when, the victim told police, two men approached his car. One entered through the passenger side and the other, whom police identified as Howard, opened the driver’s door and threatened to shoot the victim if he did not hand over his wallet, prosecutors said.
The victim was then struck in the head and forced out of the car, according to the criminal complaint.
In the third instance, prosecutors said, Howard approached a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe outside a Hampton Inn on 135th Avenue in Ozone Park and demanded rings and cash from the woman inside on Jan. 21. He then forced himself into the driver’s seat.
After circling the parking lot for a few minutes, officials said, he allegedly stopped and demanded money from the woman’s mother, who was coming out of the hotel. When the mother refused and fought back, he shot her in the chest, leaving her in critical condition.
Surveillance footage captured a man who authorities said appeared to be Howard fleeing in a white Jetta identical to the one reported stolen Dec. 18.
Police tracked the Jetta to Brooklyn and saw Howard approach the vehicle on Jan. 25, they said. Officers arrested him when he got inside.
Prosecutors said they linked Howard to the Dec. 18 crime through blood found at the attempted robbery scene and the victim’s discarded iPhone and tied him to the Dec. 28 case, when the victim picked Howard out of a photo lineup.
“These series of crimes demonstrate a disturbing level of depravity and complete disregard for the safety and well-being of the victims involved in these acts of violence,” Bratton said in a statement.
According to court documents, Howard has a history of violent convictions. He served 6 months in prison on a 1989 attempted robbery charge and 5 years in prison on a 1992 manslaughter conviction. Another attempted robbery conviction during his parole on the manslaughter charge left him with a sentence of 10 years to life.
Gold issued a permanent order of detention.
Howard’s attorney, James Darrow of Federal Defenders, declined to comment.