Carl Johnson

For other people named Carl, see Carl (disambiguation).
Carl Johnson
Appearances GTA San Andreas
Full Name Carl Johnson
Aliases CJ
Place of Birth Los Santos
Nationality American
Home Johnson House, Los Santos (?-1987, 1992-?)
Liberty City (1987-1992)
Family Beverly Johnson (mother, deceased)
Sean Johnson (brother)
Kendl Johnson (sister)
Brian Johnson (brother, deceased)
Main Affiliations Grove Street Families
Frank Tenpenny and CRASH (? - 1992)
Mike Toreno (1992)
Wu Zi Mu and the San Fierro Triads (1992)
Salvatore Leone and the Leone Family (1992)
The Truth (1992 -?)
Cesar Vialpando and the Varrios Los Aztecas (1992 - ?)
Zero (1992)
Loco Syndicate (1992)
Ken Rosenberg(1992)
Kent Paul(1992)
Madd Dogg(1992)
Joey Leone(1987 - 1992)
Vehicles Low-Ride Savanna (gift)
Black ZR-350 (prize)
Beige Broadway (gift)
Hydra (stolen)
Jetpack (stolen, later gift)
Player's choice
Businesses Doherty Garage
The Four Dragons Casino
Wang Cars
Zero RC
Grove Street
Voiced by Young Maylay

Carl "CJ" Johnson is a character in the 3D Universe who appears as the protagonist in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.


Childhood, Teenage Years, and Gang Lifestyle

Carl was born inside the Johnson House in Grove Street in Ganton, Los Santos, to mother Beverly Johnson and an unnamed father who is never mentioned. He has an elder brother Sean "Sweet" Johnson, and two younger siblings, Kendl and Brian. Old Reece recalls memories of Carl's father, though his own sanity is in question due to the way in which he often addresses him as his "son", and Carl, while in Liberty City, often tells his crime partner Joey Leone that he never knew his father. He had never or rarely ventured outside Los Santos before 1987. According to one of his later revelations, Carl was traumatized in his youth by swimming off the coast of the Santa Maria, having a condom stuck to his face, and has since then been reasonably afraid to swim.

The Johnson siblings, along with childhood friends Melvin "Big Smoke" Harris and Lance "Ryder" Wilson, grew up on the same Grove Street cul-de-sac. Sweet became the leader of the Grove Street Families as he matured, which introduced him, Carl and even Brian into gang life. Folowing his return to Los Santos, Carl also recalls Ryder dealing drugs since he was ten, during an interaction with him. During the mid-1980s, Grove Street Families were at the height of their power when they were intensely pressured by corrupt C.R.A.S.H. officer Frank Tenpenny, who allied himself with the Ballas (who, unlike the Families, had no reservations against dealing in hard drugs) and cooperated with them against the Families for profits, giving the Ballas a foothold on street intelligence, which started bringing the Ballas to a major footing against the Families. In 1987, the gang was shaken by the death of a rather young Brian. Sweet laments that Carl "let Brian die" and did not call for help, an incident Tenpenny remembers witnessing as he later reveals, causing Carl to leave for Liberty City in that same year. He was no longer considered a member of Grove Street, and would later have to earn his way back into the gang. Smoke says to Carl that "the East Coast got you all thinned down" implying he was either fatter or more muscular before leaving Los Santos.

Because Carl is able to order drinks at bars when he takes girlfriends on dates, he was at least 21 in 1992, and therefore at least 16 in 1987. Because Carl left for Liberty City on his own, he was more likely 18 or older in 1987, though still quite young. In the game, he appears to be in his early-to-mid 20s.

Adult life in Liberty City

In Liberty City, he had the opportunity of working with Don Salvatore Leone's son, Joey Leone in the car theft business, and is once seen mugging a passer-by on the streets in Liberty City. In 1992, after five years, Sweet calls Carl on his cell phone to tell him his mother was killed in a drive-by shooting (calling only minutes after it happened). Carl returns to Los Santos for the funeral, with the partial consideration of staying there long-term.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

As soon as Carl is in Los Santos, he is immediately confronted by Tenpenny and his accomplices Edward "Eddie" Pulaski and Jimmy Hernandez, who explain that either Carl will work for them, or they will frame him for killing former fellow officer Ralph Pendelbury. Carl, after being thrown into an alleyway in the Rollin' Heights Ballas territory of Jefferson, finally meets with his siblings and friends of the Grove Street Families, who explain that they lost much of their power since the last five years - a result of the growing crack cocaine trend bossted by the Ballas, who are using the drug to wipe out the Families. Carl and Sweet work furiously to successfully bring the gang back to power, Carl regaining Sweet's respect in the process. This includes reuniting with the Seville Boulevard and Temple Drive Families, as well as meeting up with Mexican-American Varrios Los Aztecas gang leader Cesar Vialpando who, although a rival of Sweet's at the time due to the latter's racial bias against him, began a relationship with Kendl. Carl also helps recently released Jeffrey "OG Loc" Cross, a highly laughable "poser" who aspires to be a rapper, ruining rap superstar Madd Dogg's career in the process. The gang is once again at the height of its power until, minutes before a massive assault war against the Ballas, Cesar calls Carl to a secluded area in a freeway north of Verdant Bluffs, where he shows Carl that Smoke and Ryder (who he does not actually see) are privately meeting up with and thus in cahoots with Tenpenny, wherein The Green Sabre that was allegedly seen being driven at the scene of Beverly's murder is shown to be in the possession of C.R.A.S.H., revealing all four to be involved with her death. Carl suddenly recalls the assault war and realizes that Sweet was lured into a trap, and immediately rushes to rescue a heavily-wounded Sweet until both of them are arrested by the police. Eventually, the Grove Street Families and Varrios Los Aztecas gangs practically disappear. Smoke becomes the head of a drug ring and takes over the city, with him and Ryder flooding the streets with drugs. Loc also becomes a rich and famous rapper, with Smoke acting as his manager as a means of laundering his money.

C.R.A.S.H. abandons Carl in rural Whetstone to eliminate a witness against Tenpenny. It is slowly revealed that the team is being tried in court over corruption in a case that is quickly building in media attention. Cesar meanwhile arranges a meeting for Carl with his mentally unstable cousin Catalina. Tenpenny introduces Carl to The Truth, who is supplying Tenpenny with a large quantity of weed to frame a district attorney who has been trying to appear as a state witness in Tenpenny's case. Tenpenny demands that Carl pay for the shipment, which forces him to return to work with Catalina, who now has bipolar love-hate feelings towards him. Carl also meets blind Chinese-American Triad leader Wu Zi "Woozie" Mu during a street race. Catalina finds him at the race and feels neglected, getting enraged at Carl, also proclaiming that she has a new boyfriend, Claude. Carl defeats Claude in a street race, gaining the deed to Claude's run down garage. Carl leaves for San Fierro with The Truth and Tenpenny's marijuana, despite Tenpenny recently having betrayed and called cops on The Truth. They meet Cesar and Kendl at the garage in Doherty, San Fierro, which appears to be run down. Carl is angry and believes that the garage is completely useless. Kendl explains to Carl that the property is a great opportunity, and through The Truth, he hires three of his highly skilled acquaintances Dwaine, Jethro and Zero to work in the garage.

Carl reunites with Woozie in San Fierro and the two quickly become strong allies, joining forces to take down each other's enemies - Carl targeting a drug cartel known as the Loco Syndicate, which is supplying drugs to Smoke, and Woozie targeting his Vietnamese rivals, the Da Nang Boys. Carl, with help from Woozie, in return for him helping the Triads finish off the Da Nang Boys, infiltrates the Syndicate and eventually destroys its drug factory after he kills all the chief members - Jizzy B., T-Bone Mendez, and apparently Syndicate leader Michael "Mike" Toreno and even Ryder, whose betrayal is discovered during an attempt to trace a deal. The garage now becomes a vehicular chop-shop, while the acquisition of a showroom nearby has now made Carl a millionaire. He receives a surprise phone call from an alive-and-well Toreno, who reveals that he is a government agent and would love to recruit Carl's help in exchange for releasing Sweet from a supposedly permanent life sentence. Although it is a well-kept secret from all his friends, The Truth surprisingly discovers this due to his taste in conspiracy theories, and finds Carl at Toreno's base of operations, shortly after the government agent's disapperance, and suspects that Toreno can't be trusted. He instead proceeds to recruit Carl's help in stealing a jetpack from the Restricted Area south of the spot, which is needed for The Truth's real goal of stealing a mysterious, all-important vial of the green goo.

Woozie soon invites Carl to the Triad's recently inaugurated, extremely glamorous Four Dragons Casino in Las Venturas. Upon arrival, Carl is promised shares in the casino by Woozie, "in exchange for some help setting it up". They are faced with aggressive competition from the Mafia-run Caligula's Palace and as revenge, spend weeks and weeks planning an extremely elaborate heist on Caligula's Palace. This involves Carl infiltrating the Caligula's Casino's inner circle of management, by a sheer chance matter of The Truth's association with record producer Kent Paul and lead singer Maccer of British band The Gurning Chimps, to work with casino manager Ken "Rosie" Rosenberg and even don Salvatore Leone. Later, Carl helps Rosie, Paul and Maccer fake their deaths to escape Salvatore's rage. During this time period, Tenpenny and Pulaski have Carl perform one last job before attempting to kill him, and later, Hernandez, who defects against them to Internal Affairs; however, Carl, upon being saved from Pulaski by Hernandez, and realizing the dead recruit's worth in saving his life, kills Pulaski and escapes. Carl also, by chance, sees a disgraced and drunken Madd Dogg attempting to commit suicide and saves his life, partially out of guilt for ruining his career, and upon realizing that Loc was selfish all along.

Shortly after he receives a phone call from Sweet, Carl's vendetta with Tenpenny and Smoke, fueled by Madd Dogg having to sell his mansion to Los Santos Vagos drug lord Big Poppa, prompts him to return to Los Santos, taking back the rapper's mansion by force. While he is busy observing Paul and Maccer recording Madd Dogg's new album, Carl receives an unprecedented call from Toreno, who apparently has one final but highly dangerous string for Carl to pull off, despite Carl's extreme frustration and fatigue at first and later his expression of huge disgust and close-shave experience of a life-and-death crisis before Toreno relays in his final visit to the studio, to Carl, who is alone discussing business on phone, that Sweet has finally been released from prison. Carl attempts to persuade Sweet into moving away from Grove Street and joining him in Madd Dogg's Mansion, but Sweet is disgusted at Carl, who he assumes is now a lavish millionaire who has abandoned the Grove Street Families and his gang lifestyle. Sweet immediately takes Carl to begin their task of reclaiming all of their turf. As the gang returns to power, Carl finds time to get back Madd Dogg's rhyme book from Loc, rebuilding Madd Dogg's career as well as giving a subtle blow to Smoke. In the case against Tenpenny, it is shown on the news that since there is no evidence implicating him in his criminal activities (evidence that Tenpenny had Carl destroy), along with no remaining witnesses (who Tenpenny had Carl kill), he would walk free, and only minutes after this, there were citywide riots. During the confusion, Groves Street acquires almost half of the city's turf. Carl later joins Sweet back home to confront Smoke, whose whereabouts have been traced to a fortified crack den in the city and personally kills Smoke after a bitter confrontation to earn Sweet's respect after barging into his crack palace, and Tenpenny also dies after losing control of his firetruck and plunging off of the bridge above Grove Street. At a celebration at the Johnson house, Madd Dogg announces "our first gold record" to Carl and Rosie. Later in the night, Sweet insists on making Grove Street a priority and Kendl suggests going back to Las Venturas to rejoin Woozie, but Carl's only reply is that he is "fittin' to hit the block, see what's happening".

After GTA San Andreas

At the very end of the game, Carl is a young multi-millionaire. His assets and business interests include the Grove Street Families and Madd Dogg's contract in Los Santos, a car garage and several other properties in San Fierro, and shares in Four Dragons casino in Las Venturas. He even still has the government's $60 million jetpack.

Murders committed

  • Freddy (Killed by Carl and Loc after a bike chase for raping OG Loc in prison)
  • Alan "Scipio" Crawford (Killed on Loc's orders in order to sabotage Madd Dogg's career)
  • Little Weasel (Killed for betraying the Grove Street Families and joining the Ballas)
  • Kane (Killed on Sweet's orders to deal damage to the Ballas)
  • Jizzy B. (Killed in order to begin disbanding the Loco Syndicate and to obtain the location of the Syndicate's next drug deal)
  • T-Bone Mendez (Killed with the help of Cesar Vialpando to disband the Loco Syndicate)
  • Lance "Ryder" Wilson (Killed for betraying the Grove Street Families)
  • The Snakehead (Killed on orders from Wu Zi Mu to weaken the Da Nang Boys)
  • Benny (Killed in order to gain access to Millie Perkins' House)
  • Edward "Eddie" Pulaski (Killed for arranging the assassination of Carl's mother and attempting to kill off Carl)
  • Big Poppa (Killed in order to recover Madd Dogg's mansion)
  • Melvin "Big Smoke" Harris (Killed for betraying the Grove Street Families and being responsible for Carl's mother's death)
Optional murders
  • Millie Perkins (Can be killed to gain quicker access to her keycard to rob Caligula's Casino.)
Deleted murders


Carl is markedly different from the previous playable characters in the Grand Theft Auto series. While Claude and Tommy Vercetti are both depicted as completely heartless and feeling no regret for all of the people that they kill, Carl is depicted as having a considerably less violent personality, occasionally giving his victims a chance to redeem themselves. An example is his failed attempt at convincing Pulaski to see that he was no more than Tenpenny's pawn. Furthermore, Carl displays genuine remorse for having to kill fellow Grove Street friends Ryder and Smoke, both of whom he considered close friends. However, Carl still has no problem with killing members of other gangs, and willfully slaughters any that get in his way of reclaiming Grove Street Families turf or try to sabotage his businesses, though in return, the gangsters are trying to kill Carl also. Carl's naive personality, inexperience and face-value interpretations of other characters responses occasionally leads to them question Carl's intelligence (The Truth, Catalina). Carl, like his brother Sweet, holds a deep seated loyalty towards Grove street and the hood, as seen in his reaction to the resentful attitude of his friends and siblings early on. Though, towards the end of the game, while Sweet was in prison, and Carl was making progress in San Fierro and Las Venturas, the unattended Grove street became Ballas turf and was filled with crack dealers. Carl tried to get his brother to abandon the hood for their assets elsewhere, but is quickly convinced into re-taking the turf after Sweet reminded him that Smoke had betrayed the Grove Street Families for the very same reason.


Carl was voiced by Christopher "Chris" Bellard, better known as Young Maylay. Rumors circulated the internet for a while that either Dave Chappelle or 50 Cent were supposed to voice Carl, but these were most likely just wishful thoughts on the part of their fans.


  • An Easter Egg in Grand Theft Auto IV suggests that Carl died after 1992. A billboard in outside the Algonquin safehouse depicts Carl in a suit and tie drinking wine with the word "Fruntalot" beside it.
  • Carl got his name from a real life person, he called hidden 1-866 phone numbers to voicemails that only existed in the special edition dual release pack of GTA III and GTA Vice City
  • Carl is the most customizable character in a GTA game to date, featuring clothes, tattoos, and hairstyles and the ability to change his physical appearance such as make him fat or muscular.
  • The clothes that Carl wears may have an effect on his personality, in a way: if Carl is wearing more expensive clothes (i.e.: Didier Sachs) rather than cheaper ones (i.e.: Binco or Sub Urban), he tends to swear less and make comments about how he is well-dressed.
  • Carl is notably the only character to date that gives some form of narrative in the storyline as if he is looking back on it i.e. "after five years on the East Coast, it was time to go home".
  • When Rockstar Games revealed that Carl was black, there was considerable uproar in the media regarding the possibility of racism. It was believed Rockstar had taken a great risk by making a black protagonist. Despite this, when the game was released, Carl's character was very well received and Rockstar were praised developing him to have emotions and morals that weren't present with previous protagonists. Many players even said that they had felt it wrong and out of character for Carl to randomly kill innocent people in-game. This trait was carried over to Niko Bellic for Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • Carl is also very under-sized outside of cutscenes, being at least half a head shorter than Ryder (who has been called a midget), and a whole head shorter compared to other Grove Street members and most pedestrians, including females, Likely another implication of his young age.
  • Carl's suggested age would make him the youngest Grand Theft Auto protagonist to date, estimated to be between the ages of 21 and 25.
  • There is a direct reference to Carl in the French version of Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare. The trophy for killing a Sasquatch translate roughly to "Don't seek it anymore CJ", a reference to people looking for Bigfoot in San Andreas.
  • Carl is briefly mentioned during a rap by comedian Dave Chappelle as he is parodying Tupac Shakur during a skit on Chapelle's Show in 2006:

Listen close, as life turns its pages
Makaveli here, kickin' rhymes for the ages
Seen things on stages, wise words spoken by sages
From SkyTel to BlackBerry pages
Your crew don't phase us, we'll make you bustas pay us
Run up in your spot like CJ from San Andreas

  • Carl’s face shares some similarities with famous hip hop rapper Dr. Dre in the 1990s.
  • Carl also bears some resemblance to French football (soccer) player Thierry Henry, but this is likely a coincidence.
  • If the player looks carefully, the player can see that Carl's eye color appears to be blue, implying he had European ancestors and those genes repeated.
  • Carl, Johnny Klebitz, Franklin Clinton, Michael De Santa and Trevor Phillips are the only protagonists confirmed to smoke marijuana.
  • Carl is referenced in the checklist for 100% completion of the Grand Theft Auto V mission Derailed. One of the goals is to land on the train using the first jump. The goal is titled "Better than CJ".