1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US: Two men convicted of murdering Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay

February 27, 2024

Pioneering rapper Jason "Jay" Mizell, widely known by his DJ moniker Jam Master Jay, was fatally shot in the head in his studio in October 2002.

Musical artist Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell holds a toy figure of himself at a ceremony honoring his hip-hop group RUN-DMC's induction into the Hollywood RockWalk in 2002
Jam Master Jay was killed in 2002Image: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

In a case that has remained unsolved for two decades, a US federal court on Tuesday found two men guilty of the 2002 murder of famed Run-DMC member Jason Mizell, better known by his stage name Jam Master Jay.

Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr, the alleged shooter, were found guilty on all counts. They were convicted of murder in the course of drug trafficking and murder with a firearm.

Jordan was the godson of the famous DJ. Washington was an old friend who was staying with the DJ's sister. All of them grew up in the same neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. 

Both men were arrested in 2020 and have pleaded not guilty.

What did prosecutors say?

The verdict came after a month-long trial in US District Court in Brooklyn, during which prosecutors called witnesses who were in the studio the night Mizell was shot and killed on October 30, 2002. He was 37 years old and a father of three. 

Like the murders of rap icons Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. in the late 1990s, the Mizell case remained unsolved for years. Authorities were inundated with tips, rumors and theories but struggled to get witnesses to come forward.

For years, witnesses had refused to cooperate with law enforcement out of fear. Those witnesses included Mizell's friend, Tony Rincon, who was shot in the leg that night by one of Mizell's killers. 

Prosecutors said Washington and Jordan, who both knew Mizell, killed the famous artist in revenge for cutting them out of a cocaine deal.

Music and drugs in New York

In the 1980s, Mizell and his Run-DMC bandmates helped usher hip-hop into the mainstream with hits including "It's Tricky" and the cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" off the  best-selling 1986 album "Raising Hell."

In their lyrics and stage shows, they were known to advocate against illegal narcotics. But as Mizell's success in the music industry waned in the 1990s, he turned to dealing cocaine to help fund his music career, according to prosecutors.

Before his death, Mizell was influential in New York as a cultivator of local talent, working with young rappers and co-founding a DJ academy.

dh/jsi (AP, AFP, dpa)