In the days before the last night of Jam Master Jay’s life, the hip-hop icon walked the familiar streets of Hollis as a haunted man.
The globally-known DJ who turned Kangol hats and unlaced Adidas into a fashion statement now opted for a bulletproof vest. And he carried a gun, too — signs of an increasing paranoia despite his status as the neighborhood’s favorite son, a friend to all, a soft touch for neighborhood folks seeking a quick loan or a kind word.
None of the good spared Jason Mizell from the evil: On Oct. 30, 2002, he was shot point-blank in the head with a .40-caliber handgun. Jay’s family and friends remain frustrated and angry as the 17th anniversary of the murder looms without an arrest, much less a conviction, in his slaying.
And many, like Jay’s cousin Ryan “Doc” Thompson, remain convinced the killing involved Mizell’s closest friends — and perhaps some of the four people with the DJ inside his Queens recording studio on the night of the murder.
“That’s the thing that hurts, that bothers me the most,” said Thompson. “He was too nice of a guy. It hurts me to say that, but it’s the truth. I think that was part of the problem with Jason, giving too much to Hollis.”
The voices demanding justice for Jay have dwindled across the years. His mom, his brother and his sister all died in recent months, and his old Run-DMC bandmates no longer wish to address his killing.
And the state of any current probe into Jay’s death is difficult to determine. An NYPD cold case detective did not return repeated phone calls about the investigation, and police declined last week to provide any update. Brooklyn federal prosecutors, who 12 years ago identified Ronald “Tinard” Washington as one of the two gunmen at the scene, offered a no comment on the case.
Washington, a Hollis native still doing federal time for a series of robberies, was sleeping on a couch at Jay’s home in the days before the killing. He was never charged in the death, denied any role in the murder — and did not respond to a letter about the crime.
Even witness Uriel “Tony” Rincon, now 42, declined to speak with the Daily News, declaring the police advised him to stay mute. Back in 2007, he told The News that Mizell’s murder was “extremely personal” and likely committed by a friend whose presence put the hip-hop star at ease before the trigger was pulled.
“For those of us who knew Jason, this is beyond frustrating and beyond maddening,” said hip-hop historian Bill Adler, author of the Run-DMC biography “Tougher Than Leather.”
“I despair of the police ever solving this,” he continued. “The prime suspects never said much. And they remain free.”
The key players in the case are familiar names on the streets of Hollis and to homicide investigators. All were within a few feet of Mizell, 37, when the trigger was pulled: Ex-con Randy Allen and his sister Lydia High; local guy Rincon, who was playing a video game alongside Jay; and aspiring rapper Michael “Mike B.” Bonds.
But they said nothing, too. Despite their proximity, none ever identified the killer. Speculation started from day one as to whether Allen or his sister, who buzzed the gunman inside the studio, were somehow involved.
“Whoever did this, Jason probably hugged that person at some point,” said Mizell’s ex-girlfriend, the mother of his namesake son.
Well-known Hollis figure Curtis Scoon, whose name surfaced in unproven rumors after the slaying, offered the same take.
“I don’t think it was robbery,” he said earlier this year on “The Breakfast Club” morning radio show. “I don’t think it was anything. I think it was right there in his inner circle.”
Though Randy and Jay were tight since childhood, their ties reportedly frayed as partners in JMJ Records. Mizell started carrying a weapon after threats were made by both Randy Allen and his brother Teddy, Thompson alleged.
Jay’s long-ago girlfriend, who asked for anonymity, recalled how money created the rift between the old friends. Allen used his friendship with Mizell for financial gain ― even finagling to land Lydia her job as JMJ’s office manager, she said.
“That’s Jason’s alleged best friend,” she told The News. “He had access to the checks. He was taking care of his own life through the company.”
In the last week of his life, Jay briefly escaped the Hollis drama by visiting an old friend in Milwaukee. Eric “Shake” James said Mizell traveled with his troubles, specifically mentioning his problems with Randy.
According to James, Mizell spoke about a split from their partnership and a possible move into the movie business. Mizell believed that Allen was dipping into funds from JMJ Records.
“He said to me, ‘Randy is stealing my money,’” recalled James. “And he told me, ‘I’m finally going to get Randy out of my pocket.’”
Allen, now 55, declined to speak about his old friend before hanging up on a Daily News reporter. He has denied similar allegations in the past.
“I don’t get into that,” he said. “I don’t have anything to say about that.”
His sister Lydia, now living on the other side of the country, did not return phone calls and an email seeking her take on the long-running investigation.
British journalist Frank Owen, who wrote a 2003 piece suggesting Jay was killed over a drug deal gone wrong, said the years of speculation meant nothing: The fate of the investigation, as it has since day one, rests with the four people inside the studio.
“They know damn well who did this,” said Owen. “They’ve always known who did this. These people have never been honest about what went on in that room.”
Yet Shake James, after 17 years, still hopes for the truth.
“At the end of the day, I pray the police find out who did this s–t,” said James. “Jay didn’t deserve it. It’s unbelievable to me that somebody would do that to somebody with such a kind heart.” Source: Larry McShane / NY DAILY NEWS