Carl Johnson

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For other people named Carl, see Carl (disambiguation).
Carl Johnson
Appearances GTA San Andreas
Full Name Carl Johnson
Aliases CJ
Gender Gender::Male
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 "CJ" Johnson, was born inside the Johnson House in Ganton, Los Santos, to mother Beverly Johnson. Carl had an older brother Sean, and two younger siblings, Kendl and Brian. Old Reece recalls memories of CJ's father, though his sanity is in question and CJ tells Joey Leone that he never knew his father. CJ rarely if ever ventured outside Los Santos before 1987. CJ was traumatized in his youth by swimming off the coast of the Santa Maria, having a condom get stuck to his face, and has since then been reasonably afraid to swim.

The Johnson siblings, along with Melvin (aka Big Smoke) and Lance (aka Ryder), grew up on the same cul-de-sac and were childhood friends. Sweet became the leader of the Grove Street Families as he matured, which introduced him, CJ and even Brian into gang life. CJ also recalls Ryder dealing drugs since he was ten. During the mid-1980s, Grove Street Families were at the height of their power when they first became pressured by Frank Tenpenny, the corrupt police officer of C.R.A.S.H. In 1987, the gang was shaken by the death of young Brian. Sweet laments that Carl "let Brian die" and did not call for help, 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. Big Smoke says to CJ that "the east coast got you all thinned out" implying he was either fatter or more muscular back then.

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 C.R.A.S.H., who explain that either CJ will work for them, or they will frame him for killing their rival, officer Ralph Pendelbury. CJ finally meets with his siblings and friends of 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. Carl and Sweet work furiously to successfully bring the gang back to power, CJ regaining his brother's respect in the process. This included reuniting with Seville and Temple families, as well as Aztecas leader Cesar Vialpando (who, although a rival of Sweet's at the time, began a relationship with Kendl). CJ also helped OG Loc, a highly laughable "poser" who aspired 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 Cesar takes CJ to a secluded area under the Mulholland Intersection, where he shows CJ that Ryder and Big Smoke are privately meeting up with and thus in cahoots with Frank Tenpenny. The green Sabre that was allegedly seen being driven at the scene of Beverly Johnson's murder is shown to be in the possession of C.R.A.S.H., revealing all four to be involved with her death. CJ then must immediately rush to a gang war and rescue a heavily-wounded Sweet until both of them are arrested (by C.R.A.S.H.). The Grove Street Families and Los Varrios Aztecas gangs practically disappear. Big Smoke becomes the head of a drug ring and takes over the city (Cesar later explains the loss of gang loyalty and that Ballas, Vagos and former Groves alike all work for Smoke, saying "this shit is bigger than any gang, ese"). OG Loc also becomes a rich and famous rapper, with Big Smoke acting as his manager as a means of laundering his money.

C.R.A.S.H. abandons CJ in rural Whetstone to eliminate a witness against them. It is slowly revealed that they are being tried in court over their corruption (in a case that is quickly building in media attention). Cesar meanwhile arranges a meeting for CJ with his (mentally unstable) cousin Catalina. Tenpenny introduces CJ to The Truth, who is supplying Tenpenny and CJ with a large quantity of weed to frame a D.A. and enemy of Tenpenny's. Tenpenny demands that CJ pay for the shipment, which forces him to return to work with Catalina, who now has bipolar love-hate feelings towards him. CJ meets Triad leader Wu Zi Mu ("Woozie") during a street race. Catalina finds him at the race and feels neglected/enraged at CJ, also proclaiming that she has a new boyfriend, Claude. CJ defeats Claude in a street race, gaining the deed to Claude's run down garage. Carl leaves for San Fierro with Truth and Tenpenny's marijuana (despite Tenpenny betraying The Truth). They meet Cesar and Kendl at the garage in Doherty, San Fierro. CJ is angry and believes that the garage is completely useless. Kendl explains to CJ that the property is a great opportunity, and through Truth, he hires Dwaine, Jethro and Zero to work in the garage.

CJ meets with Woozie in San Fierro and the two quickly become strong allies, joining forces to take down each other's enemies - CJ targeting the Loco Syndicate (Big Smoke's suppliers) and Woozie's rivals the Da Nang Boys. CJ infiltrates and eventually kills all the chief members - Jizzy B., T-Bone Mendez, Mike Toreno (as it would seem) and even Ryder from his old gang. The garage (now a car theft ring), as well as renting out property, has now made CJ a millionaire. He receives a surprise phone call from an alive-and-well Mike Toreno, who is a government agent and is recruiting CJ's help in exchange for releasing Sweet from a supposedly permanent life sentence. Although it is a well-kept secret from all his friends, Truth finds CJ at Toreno's place of operation and tells CJ that Toreno can't be trusted. He continues to recruit CJ's help in stealing a jetpack from Area 69, which is needed for Truth's main goal of stealing a mysterious, all-important green goo.

Woozie invites CJ to the Triad's extremely glamorous Four Dragons Casino in Las Venturas. Upon arrival, CJ is given shares in the casino by Woozie, "in exchange for some help setting it up". They are faced with aggressive competition from Mafia-run Caligula's Palace and as revenge, spend weeks and weeks planning an extremely elaborate heist of Caligula's. This involves CJ infiltrating Caligula's inner circle of management (by chance of Truth's association with music industry men Kent Paul and Maccer) to work with manager Ken "Rosie" Rosenberg and even don Salvatore Leone (CJ helps Rosie, Paul and Maccer fake their deaths to escape Salvatore's rage). During this time period, C.R.A.S.H. have CJ perform one more job before attempting to kill him (and their own Jimmy Hernandez for snitching on them); however, CJ kills Eddie Pulaski and escapes. CJ also, by chance, sees Madd Dogg attempting to commit suicide and saves his life, partially out of guilt for ruining his career.

His ongoing vendetta with Tenpenny and Big Smoke, fueled by Madd Dogg having to sell his mansion to drug lord Big Poppa, prompts CJ to return to Los Santos, taking back the rapper's mansion by force. While recording Madd Dogg's new album, Toreno gives CJ the last of his work (despite CJ's extreme frustration at first) before Sweet is 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 CJ, who is now a lavish millionaire and has abandoned Grove Street and his gang lifestyle. Sweet immediately takes Carl to begin their task of reclaiming all of their turf. As the gang returns to power, CJ finds time to get back Madd Dogg's rhyme book from OG Loc, rebuilding Madd Dogg's career as well as being another blow to Big Smoke. In the case against Tenpenny, it's shown on the news that since there is no evidence implicating him in his criminal activities (evidence that Tenpenny had CJ destroy), along with no remaining witnesses (witnesses that Tenpenny had CJ kill), he would walk free, and only minutes after there were citywide riots. During the confusion, Groves Street takes almost half of the city's turf, CJ personally kills Big Smoke (to earn Sweet's respect), and Frank 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 CJ and Ken Rosenberg. Later in the night, Sweet insists on making Grove Street a priority, Kendl Johnson suggests going back to Las Venturas with Wu Zi Mu, but Carl's only reply was that he is "fittin' to hit the block, see what's happening".

After GTA San Andreas

At the very end of the game, CJ is a young multi-millionaire. His assets and business interests include Grove Street gang 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 CJ and OG Loc after a bike chase for raping OG Loc in prison)
  • Alan Crawford (Killed on OG 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)
  • Ryder (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)
  • Eddie Pulaski (Killed for arranging the assassination of CJ's mother and attempting to kill off CJ)
  • Big Poppa (Killed in order to recover Madd Dogg's mansion)
  • Big Smoke (Killed for betraying the Grove Street Families and responsible for CJ'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


CJ 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, CJ 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 Eddie Pulaski to see that he was no more than Tenpenny's pawn. Furthermore, CJ displays genuine remorse for having to kill fellow Grove Street friends Ryder and Big Smoke, both of whom he considered close friends. However, CJ 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 CJ also. CJ's naive personality, inexperience and face-value interpretations of other characters responses occasionally leads to them question CJ's intelligence (The Truth, Catalina). CJ, 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 CJ was making progress in San Fierro and Las Venturas, the unattended Grove street became Ballas turf and was filled with crack dealers. CJ 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.


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


  • An Easter Egg in Grand Theft Auto IV suggests that CJ 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 CJ wears may have an effect on his personality, in a way: if CJ 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 CJ 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, CJ'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 CJ 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.
  • CJ 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 CJ'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".