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2 men charged in 2002 killing of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay

Portrait of American hip-hop and rap group Run-DMC at the American Music Awards, 1980s. Left to right, Darryl McDaniels (DMC), Joe Simmons (Run), and Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay) (1965 - 2002). (Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)

YORK (AP) — Nearly two decades after the slaying of Run-DMC star Jam
Master Jay, federal prosecutors said Monday they have solved one of New
York City’s most enduring mysteries, charging two men from his
neighborhood with murder and suggesting that the hip-hop artist —
celebrated for his anti-drug stance — was ambushed over a cocaine deal.

suspects were identified in court papers as Ronald Washington, 56, who
is currently serving a federal prison sentence stemming from a string of
robberies while on the run from police after Jay’s 2002 death, and Karl
Jordan Jr., 36, who is also charged with engaging in a cocaine
distribution conspiracy in 2017.

Jason “Jay” Mizell, known
professionally as Jam Master Jay, formed Run-DMC with Joseph “Run”
Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniel in the early 1980s. Together, they
helped take hip-hop mainstream with hits like “It’s Tricky” and the
Aerosmith remake collaboration “Walk This Way.”

Jay’s death,
following the long unsolved slayings of rappers Tupac Shakur in Las
Vegas in 1996 and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace in New York City
in 1997, shook the hip-hop world. Chuck D of Public Enemy compared his
death to that of John Lennon. More than $60,000 in rewards was offered,
but witnesses refused to come forward and the case languished.

is a case about a murder that for nearly two decades had gone
unanswered,” Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said at a news
conference announcing the charges. “Today, we begin to answer that
question of who killed Jason Mizell, and why, and we’re confident that
we can prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

who had reportedly been living on a couch at Jay’s home in the days
before the killing, was publicly named as a possible suspect or witness
as far back as 2007. Prosecutors allege he waved a handgun and ordered
another person at the recording studio to lie on the ground while Jordan
shot Jay in the head Oct. 30, 2002.

According to prosecutors, Jay
would bring in bulk amounts of cocaine to sell retail and was killed as
retribution for cutting Washington out of a plan to distribute 10
kilograms in Maryland.

“They walked in and murdered him in cold blood,” DuCharme said.

message seeking comment was left with a publicist for Run-DMC. The
group performed anti-drug concerts, established scholarships and held
voter registration drives at its live shows. In Hollis, the Queens
neighborhood where he grew up, Jay was seen as a role model. Friends
were puzzled by his death, thinking him an unlikely target for violence.

convicted, Washington and Jordan each face a mandatory minimum sentence
of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, or the death
penalty. Prosecutors said in court papers that Attorney General William
Barr had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.

pleaded not guilty at an arraigned held Monday by teleconference
because of coronavirus-related precautions. His lawyer declined comment.
Washington, who is imprisoned in Kentucky, will be arraigned later this
week, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors have asked that both be jailed pending trial.

37-year-old Jay was shot once in the head with a .40-caliber bullet by a
masked assailant at his studio in Hollis. Police identified at least
four people in the studio with Jay when he was killed, including the two
armed gunmen.

At Jay’s funeral, McDaniels remembered his friend
and fellow Run-DMC star as “the embodiment of hip-hop.” He was also a
husband and a father of three children.

“Jam Master Jay was not a thug,” McDaniels said. “Jam Master Jay was not a gangster. Jam Master Jay was a unique individual.”

Prosecutors, though, now say Jay had been bringing cocaine into the New York area since 1996.

the time, Jay’s acquaintance with Washington — a repeat offender with
convictions dating in 1982 — worried and upset his family.

ending up on Jay’s couch, Washington served prison time for grand
larceny, assault, criminal use of a firearm, heroin possession and other
charges. He was been linked to the 1995 fatal shooting of Randy Walker,
a close associate of the late Tupac Shakur.

prosecutors said, Washington hopped from motel-to-motel and robbed
businesses including supermarkets and a Burger King while detectives
pursued him in connection with Jay’s killing. He remained at large for
nearly three months until police on Long Island nabbed him for robbing a

Last month, as prosecutors were preparing to seek a grand
jury indictment against him for Jay’s death, Washington filed a
handwritten petition asking to immediately be released to home
confinement, arguing his medical history put him at risk for
complications from coronavirus. Federal prosecutors responded by asking
for more time to respond, delaying any decision until after Washington
was charged.

Jordan, just a teenager when Jay was killed, was declared a juvenile delinquent after a 1999 robbery arrest and had a firearm case dismissed when the complaining witness refused to cooperate with law enforcement. In recent years, prosecutors said, he’s been caught on audio and video surveillance six times selling cocaine to an undercover federal agent.

Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jennifer Lehman contributed to this report.