Jam Master Jay “was nervous about something” days before he was killed, according to witness testimony on Thursday at the Brooklyn trial for two men accused of killing the Run-DMC DJ in 2002. The Associated Press reports that Stephon Watford, a cousin and business associate of the late DJ (whose real name was Jason Mizell), told the jury Mizell had started carrying a gun to protect himself in the days prior to the fatal shooting.
Watford also claimed that one of the defendants, Ronald Washington, had asked for bullets days before the shooting and had mentioned that “something bad is going to happen.” After Mizell’s death, Washington returned home with a bottle of Hennesey and said, “Don’t throw away this bottle, because this is the last bottle that Jay drank out of.”
The AP reports that Washington’s attorney, Susan Kellman, described the comment as Washington’s way of “showing or communicating a connection” to Mizell. When Kellman asked Watford how he could recall the day of the shooting so vividly, when investigators had found inconsistencies in other statements he’d given, he said, “2002 was a tragedy in my life.”
Prosecutors argue that Washington and another man, Karl Jordan Jr., conspired to kill Mizell after he cut them out of a cocaine distribution deal. Mizell, the lawyers have said, turned to dealing drugs after Run-DMC‘s popularity waned. They claim a third man, Jay Bryant — who will be tried at a later date — helped Washington and Jordan gain access to a recording studio where Mizell was recording and that Jordan shot Mizell while Washington stood guard. They believe the men fled the scene via a fire escape.
All three men have pleaded not guilty. Jordan and Washington face a minimum of 20 years each if convicted. Their lawyers have cast doubts on statements witnesses have given, including suggesting that memories have faded in the past two decades.
Another witness, Yarah Concepcion, testified on Thursday that she was in the control room of the studio at the time of the slaying. When she saw his body on the floor in the next room, where he had been playing video games with Uriel Rincon, she recognized immediately that he was dead. “I knew he was gone,” she said. “But I just had to try to see if he was alive.” When she felt safe enough to go into the room where the shooting occurred after the killers fled, she asked Rincon where Mizell, whose body was on the floor, where the DJ had been shot. She and Rincon tried checking his pulse. She was crying while answering the attorneys’ questions, according to the AP.
On Wednesday, Rincon told jurors he clearly saw Jordan and Washington. “[Jordan] walked directly to Jay and made a potential handshake – half a handshake – and at the same time I heard a couple of shots,” he said. “At the same time, my mom called me. I dropped my phone and looked at him at the same time. I see Jay fall.” When prosecutors asked him to identify the two men, he indicated they were the defendants in the courtroom. (On Thursday, neither Concepcion nor Watford went so far as to name Washington and Jordan as the killers. ) The defense attorneys questioned why Rincon hid what he now says is the truth for years from investigators. “I was scared,” he said.