2 Men Charged In Long-Unsolved Killing Of Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay | WAMC

2 Men Charged In Long-Unsolved Killing Of Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay

Aug 17, 2020
Originally published on August 18, 2020 12:45 pm

Federal prosecutors announced charges Monday against two men accused of killing Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay — the DJ for the seminal rap group Run-DMC. Mizell was shot inside a recording studio in New York City in 2002.

At a press conference, Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington had been charged with murder in Mizell's death. DuCharme didn't go into details about what led to the charges but said "today we begin to answer that question, who killed Jason Mizell and why."

According to newly filed court documents, the killing was allegedly over a drug deal. Prosecutors said that Mizell was involved in trafficking cocaine across state lines, and that he had 10 kilograms of cocaine that Washington was supposed to sell in Maryland. Mizell then told Washington that he was being cut from the deal, which led to Washington and Jordan allegedly conspiring to kill him as retaliation, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. The two then entered the studio the night of the killing and "ultimately executed Mizell," according to court documents.

As Jam Master Jay, Mizell was known as the backbone of Run-DMC, a group instrumental in bringing rap and hip-hop into mainstream culture. The group's third album, Raising Hell (which featured hits such "It's Tricky," "My Adidas," and "Walk This Way"), was the first rap album to go platinum, eventually reaching triple-platinum status. Mizell also founded his own record label — JMJ Records — known for discovering such artists as Onyx and 50 Cent.

Mizell's killing received off-and-on attention from authorities as well as the media over the years. The case was the center of a 2018 episode of the Netflix documentary series ReMastered that looked not just at the loose threads in the killing but the lack of urgency from law enforcement in solving it.

If charged, both Jordan and Washington face at least a 20-year prison sentence. Washington is currently serving time for robbery.

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Federal prosecutors in New York City have charged two men with killing Jam Master Jay of the legendary rap group Run-DMC. Almost 20 years ago, he was shot and killed inside a recording studio in Queens. Here's NPR's Andrew Limbong with the latest.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: At a press conference yesterday, Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, charged Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. with the murder of Jason Mizell, aka Jam Master Jay.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SETH DUCHARME: On October 30, 2002, nearly 20 years ago, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Washington walked into a music studio in Queens where Mr. Mizell and others were working, essentially, and hanging out. And they walked in, and they murdered him in cold blood.

LIMBONG: Prosecutors allege that Mizell - Jam Master Jay - was involved in transporting cocaine across state lines and that he tried to exclude Washington from a deal. In retaliation, Washington and Jordan, quote, "ultimately executed Mizell."

Jam Master Jay was known for being the backbone of Run-DMC, a group that was instrumental in mainstreaming rap and hip-hop in the '80s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAM MASTER JAY")

RUN-DMC: (Rapping) His name is Jay, and he's on his way to be the best DJ in the U.S. of A. J-A-Y are the letters of his name...

LIMBONG: All three members of Run DMC were from Hollis, Queens, and Jam Master Jay's death deeply impacted the community there. His murder was the subject of an episode of the Netflix documentary series "ReMastered" that explored not just the loose threads in the murder case but the lack of urgency from law enforcement to solve the killing.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "REMASTERED")

RAHMAN DUKES: Jay was killed, like, off of Jamaica Ave in Queens, the most popular strip in the entire borough. You have a police station right across the street.

LIMBONG: Rahman Dukes, then a Hollis resident and journalist at MTV, went on in the documentary to say that Jam Master Jay's death came not long after the deaths of Biggie Smalls and Tupac.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "REMASTERED")

DUKES: These are all unsolved crimes. And the feeling is that the police don't really care. They look at us like, let them kill each other.

LIMBONG: Since the killing, Jam Master Jay's family had tried to keep media attention onto the case. And at a press conference on Monday, prosecutors didn't say what new evidence led to the charges. But Daryl McCormick, the assistant special agent in charge of the ATF in New York, said this to his family.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

DARYL MCCORMICK: We hope that today's arrests and indictments and this announcement will bring some measure of peace, knowing that those responsible will be held accountable.

LIMBONG: If convicted, Jordan and Washington both face at least 20 years in prison. Washington is currently serving a sentence for robbery.

Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF FATB'S "LOST THOUGHTS (FEAT. ZENDR)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.