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.