Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Hip-hop heroes bite the bullet

Jam Master Jay's murder made him part of the trinity of high-profile hip-hop stars senselessly slaughtered by gunmen who escaped legal retribution

BY TOM HAYS and LARRY McSHANE  /  AP , NEW YORK

Jam Master Jay, aka Jason Mizell, a member of hip hop pioneers Run-DMC, is seen in Los Angeles in this Feb. 25, 2002, file photo. Five years after his death, the people who brazenly pumped a bullet into the rap icon remain on the street.

The mother of rap icon Jam Master Jay knows the truth: The people who brazenly pumped a bullet into her son's head remain on the street. So do the witnesses - some of them her dead son's friends - who can identify the killers.

Law enforcement knows it, too, as do the influential DJ's frustrated friends. Five years, a substantial reward and a lengthy investigation have not changed a thing when it comes to arresting the murderer of the Run-DMC turntable legend.

"The people who know something haven't talked,'' said Connie Mizell-Perry, who named her third and youngest son Jason Mizell.

"They have to live with themselves. Whoever did it, let them live with themselves.''

On the night before Halloween 2002, the 37-year-old Mizell was in his recording studio in his neighborhood of Hollis, Queens, where the hip-hip star was as recognizable as Santa Claus at the North Pole. Two armed men were buzzed inside; according to some reports, Jay hugged one of the pair.

And then he took a single .40-caliber bullet to the back of his head.

While the homicide of the 37-year-old Mizell legend lingers as an open case, the identity of one suspect/eyewitness was made public this year by prosecutors: Ronald Washington, a career criminal and local zero. Washington, in the days before Mizell's slaying, was reportedly living on a couch at Jay's home.

The arrangement infuriated Mizell's family, since Washington was already linked to another rap slaying: the 1995 shooting of Randy Walker, a close associate of platinum-selling star Tupac Shakur.

Next month, Washington faces sentencing for a series of robberies that took place after he went on the lam following Mizell's death - a nomadic tour of Long Island motels as he dodged the police.

Washington, in a hand-written letter that surfaced during his trial, describes himself as a "childhood friend" of Jay, and complains that police were harassing him at Mizell's wake.

He denies any role in the murder at Jay's 24/7 Studio, and has not been charged in the case. But prosecutors detailed Washington waving a handgun and ordering people in the studio to lie on the ground while the execution took place.

The gunman "provided cover for his associate to shoot and kill Jason Mizell," said the court papers, filed by prosecutors opposing a defense motion to dismiss the federal gun and robbery charges against him. Prosecutors declined further comment.

Police identified at least other four people in the studio that night. There were two armed gunmen involved, including one suspect with neighborhood ties. In Hollis, it seemed everybody had heard something about Jay's death.

And still, nobody opened their mouth. And no one is charged in the death.

"There are people who may not be directly culpable, but they damn sure know who did it," said Bill Adler, a hip-hop historian and one-time Run-DMC publicist. "And they keep their mouths shut because they know they could be the next one to end up dead.''

His slaying made Jam Master Jay part of the trinity of high-profile hip-hop heroes senselessly slaughtered by gunmen who escaped legal retribution, along with Tupac and his East Coast nemesis, Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace.

The investigations were all stunted by a lack of witness cooperation, part of the national "stop snitching" trend. More recently, the same thing happened when a bodyguard for rapper Busta Rhymes was gunned down during a Brooklyn video shoot on Feb. 5, 2006.

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