Latest indictment in Jam Master Jay’s death sheds light on Run-DMC cold case
More than 20 years after the shooting death of hip-hop trailblazer Jam Master Jay, a third man has been indicted in the Run-DMC star’s long unsolved case.
Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York on Tuesday filed a superseding indictment charging Jay Bryant, 49, of Jamaica, Queens, in the death of Jason “Jay” Mizell, who was fatally shot in the head at his studio in 2002. Jam Master Jay was 37 when he was pronounced dead at the scene. The new indictment replaces the one initially handed down by a grand jury in 2020, which also named Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. as suspects in the shooting.
According to the superseding indictment obtained Wednesday by The Times, Bryant, who has gone by the aliases Bradshaw Dewitt, Jason Robinson, Morgan Bryant, Deshawn Sadler, Jay Sadler and Big Jay, also was charged with murdering Mizell while engaged in narcotics trafficking. He is already in custody pending trial on unrelated federal drug charges. He is believed to be a flight risk and poses a danger to the community, according to a court memo obtained by The Times calling for a permanent order of detention.
The other men — Washington and Jordan — were indicted in August 2020, which marked the first major development in the cold case. When the grand jury first handed down its indictment, federal prosecutors suggested that Mizell, who was celebrated for his antidrug stance, may have been ambushed over a cocaine deal.
Two men have been indicted in the 2002 killing of hip-hop artist Jam Master Jay, which had been one of New York City’s most notorious unsolved killings.
Bryant, Washington and Jordan were observed entering the Run-DMC member’s recording studio in Queens just before the Oct. 20, 2002, shooting, and a piece of clothing left at the scene contained Bryant’s DNA, the detention memo said.
“Washington pointed his firearm at one of the individuals located inside the studio and demanded that the person lay on the floor. Jordan approached Mizell, pointed his firearm at him, and fired two shots at close range. One of those shots hit Mizell in the head, killing him. The second shot struck another individual in the leg. All three defendants fled the crime scene,” the memo said.
Bryant allegedly claimed to an associate that he was the gunman who shot Mizell. However, the memo cast doubt on his claim and said evidence to be presented at a coming trial would show that Jordan fired twice from close range.
Bryant’s attorney, César de Castro, said that he had just learned of the charges.
“Securing an indictment in a secret grand jury, applying an extremely low burden of proof, is one thing. Proving it at trial is another matter,” he said in an email to the Associated Press. He told NBC News that his client plans to plead not guilty. De Castro did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
Bryant, who also faces a firearms charge, is expected to be arraigned later, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told NBC News. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office of Eastern New York did not immediately respond Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.
When the 2020 indictment was filed, Washington, also known as Tinard, who claimed to be a childhood friend of Jay, was serving a federal prison sentence stemming from a string of robberies he committed while on the run from police after the hip-hop star’s death. And Jordan, whose aliases include Little D and Noid, also was charged with engaging in an alleged cocaine distribution conspiracy in 2017. Both pleaded not guilty, NBC said.
In April 2022, Jordan’s attorney’s demanded that the murder charges be thrown out, arguing due process violations because authorities waited nearly two decades before “hauling him into court,” Billboard reported.
The rap pioneers of Run-DMC brought the musical genre into the mainstream in the 1980s with the help of their “Walk This Way” collaboration with the rockers of Aerosmith. Jam Master Jay served as the trio’s DJ and provided background music for frontmen Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. Run and DMC, who called it quits after Jay’s death but have reunited on occasion, marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with a star-studded performance at the Grammy Awards in February.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.