What Happened to Jam Master Jay Two Decades Ago?

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Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of murder. Reader discretion is advised.

Jam Master Jay, the DJ of the iconic hip-hop trio Run-DMC, died on October 30, 2002, from a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The incident occurred at a recording studio in Jamaica, Queens. Jay was 37 years old at the time, per BBC. The case had remained unsolved for two years as detectives failed to make arrests in the shooting death.

Recently, Jay’s killers, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr., of murder were brought to justice. A jury convicted Washington, a long-time friend of Jay and Jordan, the victim’s godson, on February 27, 2024. They were each facing one count of murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder charges. A third defendant, Jay Bryant, who is also facing similar charges, has pleaded not guilty. Bryant will separately stand trial in January 2025, reported CNN.

BBC stated that Jay, born Jason Mizell, former Run-DMC with his two friends, Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels. The group became a highly influential hip-hop trio and released a string of hits in the 1980s. A few of their all-time hit tracks include It’s Tricky and Walk This Way, which was produced in collaboration with Aerosmith.

Was Jam Master Jay killed in a drug deal gone wrong?

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According to the BBC report, Run-DMC was publicly against the use of drugs. However, after their popularity declined in the 1990s, Jam Master Jay resorted to cocaine trafficking. During the murder trial of Jay’s killers, Ralph Mullgrav, a convicted drug dealer, testified about the later DJ’s involvement in dealing drugs.

AP News reported that Mullgrav’s testimony claimed Jay had started dealing in cocaine to pay his bills. Mullgrav alleged that Jay, aka Jason Mizell, often approached him to sell cocaine. Mullgrav said, “Jason wasn’t a drug dealer. He just used it to make ends meet.”

Prosecutors had alleged that Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. conspired to kill Jam Master Jay over a drug dispute. The outlet reported that federal prosecutors claimed Jay was arranging a profitable cocaine transaction when Washington and Jordan Jr. killed him. Prosecutors further alleged that the victim was going to cut Jordan and Washington out because Mullgrav—the dealer—had refused to work with Washington.

BBC further reported that prosecutors said Jay’s godson, Jordan Jr., and Washington were staying with the victim’s sister. The duo thought that the hip-hop artist would include them in the drug deal worth nearly $200,000. They were allegedly angered when Jay cut them out.

What did witnesses reveal after Jam Master Jay’s murder?

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A witness named Uriel Rincon identified Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. as Jam Master Jay’s killers, reported CNN. WABC and AP News stated that Rincon, who was present at the studio on October 30, 2002, said the duo came in armed and blocked the door. He further testified that Jordan shot Jay in the head. Rincon also said he did not reveal the attackers’ identities sooner as he was “confused and scared.”

Per AP News, a second eyewitness, Lydia High, claimed that Washington commanded her at gunpoint to lie on the floor. High did not identify Jordan Jr. directly but described some attributes that roughly fit him. These attributes included a tattooed neck.

After the conviction, Jam Master Jay’s killers, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr., are each facing 20 years to life in prison. The third defendant, Jay Bryant, is facing one count of murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder. He allegedly participated in the crime by allowing the killers to enter the studio through the fire escape door. Bryant will stand trial separately in January 2026.

Netflix documentary Remastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay? revisits the artist’s murder case. It is now available to stream on the platform.

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