Randy Allen knows more about the murder of his best friend, Jam Master Jay, than he's thus far been willing to discuss publicly — or privately, with authorities who continue to investigate the still-unsolved crime. He has admitted that much to MTV News.
Allen has returned to the spotlight in recent weeks, offering tantalizing new details about the events of that cold October night in 2002 when unknown assailants entered the 24/7 Recording Studios in Queens, New York, and killed the legendary DJ for the trailblazing rap trio Run-DMC.
Not just a lifelong friend of Jay's but also a business partner, Allen is one of a small handful of witnesses who were actually inside that recording studio on the night of the murder, though he claims to have been in another room when it occurred. What exactly Allen saw that night remains unclear, as do his actions in the wake of the shooting.
Allen's reluctance to answer those questions definitively has resulted in a bitter estrangement from Jay's family, with whom he was once very close. The family, including Jay's outspoken brother, Marvin Thompson, has not been quiet about its suspicions that Allen, like other witnesses in the studio that night, is withholding vital information that could help solve the case.
"Nobody seen nobody? Come on, man. Who wrote that script? There's too many holes in that movie," Thompson recently exclaimed. "I don't trust nobody that was in the studio." Those people include Allen; his sister Lydia High; their associate "Mike B"; an aspiring singer affiliated with Jay's production company; and Jay's friend Uriel "Tony" Rincon, who was sitting next to Jay at the time of his death, and who was also shot that night by one of the two gunmen.
The Jam Master Jay Reports
For more than five years, Thompson and Allen didn't speak, their paths crossing not a single time. But that silence was broken last week when MTV News helped facilitate a meeting between the two. It was no easy task.
Allen and Thompson came face-to-face at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom late last month at the first J.A.M. Awards, which were a tribute to Jam Master Jay. Our cameras captured the brief but tense confrontation, which ended with a reluctant handshake.
Speaking to MTV News the following day, Thompson said he was "shocked" to see Allen there — as offended as he was to see him years earlier on the day he buried his brother.
"I felt insulted at him being at the funeral," Thompson said. "He would have gotten it at the funeral if one of my friends didn't stop me. That's real. One of my friends stopped me from taking him out."
Thompson's hostility was evident. But so too was his quest for answers in the murder that changed so many lives, including his own. By the interview's end, he agreed to sit down with Allen to discuss the case in a conversation that would be moderated by MTV News' Tim Kash. There would certainly be no shortage of questions for Allen, who has become increasingly forthcoming in the weeks since the fifth anniversary of Jay's death.
Confronted with allegations made by author and cop-turned-private investigator Derrick Parker, Allen seemed to confirm that in the moments after the murder, he did, in fact, grab a gun in the recording studio — a gun that, he says, belonged to Jam Master Jay. At the same time, he seemed to deny actually chasing the perpetrators and firing at them. It's only fair, we feel, to qualify Allen's confirmations and denials because his statements are often rambling, evasive and sometimes contradictory.
That was also the case on December 6, when Allen met Thompson at MTV's studios in New York. This was the meeting Randy had, in recent weeks, so desperately sought, and the same one that Marvin had resisted, showing up only after nearly pulling out in the hours leading up to it.
Far more than a passing handshake, this would be an opportunity for former friends to reconnect, an opportunity to compare notes, air grievances, clear up misconceptions, dispel myths and possibly help solve the murder of Jam Master Jay.
Security guards stood by as the two apprehensively took their seats across from one another, on either side of Tim Kash. And so began the emotionally charged encounter, a conversation that would last for more than two hours.
"I missed [Allen]," admitted Thompson, whose distrust of Allen had only grown in the five years that he says Randy avoided him and the rest of Jay's family. "He was like a brother to me, growing up. ... When I buried Jason [Jam Master Jay's real name was Jason Mizell], it seemed like I buried Randy at the same time. It's like I buried two brothers at the same time. I was looking for Randy to be more upright." He then addressed Allen more directly: "I was looking for you to tell me what happened."
"I thought about that, and you're right, Marvin," Allen conceded, but he went on to explain why he avoided the family. Randy says his sister, who was also in the studio on the night of the shooting, identified one of the gunmen as someone who was living with members of Jam Master Jay's family. "When ... Jay got shot, my thoughts were: I don't know who just did this ... but I'm hearing that it came from somebody that lived in [Jay's family's] household. I thought the best thing I can do was stay away ... I knew after this whole thing happened ... that person went back to the house."
Thompson knew who Allen was referring to. Ronald "Tinard" Washington, a convicted armed robber who is currently behind bars on charges unrelated to the JMJ case, was a family friend staying with Jay's sister and cousin in Jay's mother's home at the time of the murder. Thompson agreed with Allen that Jay wanted Washington out of that house, suspecting him of committing several robberies around the Queens neighborhood of Hollis — a neighborhood Run-DMC immortalized in both song and video.
But Thompson has a theory of his own, one that hits equally close to home. In an interview with MTV News conducted several days before the meeting with Allen, Thompson alleged for the first time that Allen's younger brother Teddy might be the gunman who killed Jam Master Jay.
The killing, Thompson theorized, stemmed from an altercation between one of Jay's cousins, nicknamed "Phonz," and Teddy, who was a regular at the recording studios where the murder occurred. "Teddy pulled a gun on my cousin. A week later, my brother caught a bullet in the head," he said.
"[Teddy] was never in the studio," Allen said in regard to reports that his brother was seen, shirtless, outside 24/7 Studios soon after the murder. "Teddy was taking a shower somewhere. [He] came out of wherever he was at after he heard the shots. I guess he just ran to it.
"Teddy is my brother," Allen stressed. "Teddy was the person that if we went away from the studio, he wouldn't let a bunch of people in, namely Tinard. It was Jay's decision that Teddy be there while we were away — while [Jay and I were in Puerto Rico, about a week before the murder], Teddy and Phonz had an altercation."
Allen would spend a considerable amount of time debunking the "Teddy" theory. And, at times, Marvin seemed to hear him. But he nonetheless seemed unwilling to entirely dismiss the possibility that Allen and his sister Lydia — who was also in the recording studio on the night of the shooting — were covering for their "baby brother," who might have killed his "baby brother."
Thompson pressed Allen on Lydia's trustworthiness. It was she who, apparently unknowingly, had buzzed in Jay's killers. And it's believed she would have seen their images at that time as they were captured on a security camera outside the entrance to the studios.
That security camera, and more specifically the footage that it ostensibly recorded in the early evening hours of October 30, 2002, was the subject of perhaps the most intriguing exchange of the entire meeting.
MTV News reporter Tim Kash immediately recognized the implications of a conversation about the tape containing that security-camera footage: It became clear as the discussion unfolded that both Randy and Marvin seemed to have prior knowledge that the incriminating tape — likely showing the identity of the assailants — is missing.
"You know who took it out?" asked Kash. "Yes, I have theories," answered Allen, claiming to have a good idea of the tape's whereabouts — which suggests that he knows who has it. He chose not to elaborate on camera.
"That is one of the conversations, Marvin, I'mma tell you about it," a fidgety and clearly uncomfortable Allen began, "but that part of the conversation is a part of the conversation that is a major part in the case ... I'mma tell you, when we're off the camera, things you don't know. That's what I mean by 'We can solve this thing.' We can get to the bottom of this."
It did, in fact, seem as though Randy and Marvin were at times filling in blanks for one another, altering each other's perceptions of events they thought they fully understood or perhaps knew they did not. The session proved undeniably enlightening for both even if, in the end, their relations on this day could only be characterized as cordial at best.
At the end of the sit-down, Allen and Thompson hugged. The wall between them may not have been leveled, but it's certainly a bit lower. They even agreed to meet again to continue the dialogue away from the cameras, though Thompson has since told us that he has no plans to see Allen again anytime soon. Whether or not the two can ever be friends again remains to be seen. It seems clear, though, that they share a common goal: to find out who killed Jason Mizell.
"I don't wanna go 10 years, 20 years [without knowing]," Thompson said, looking numb with frustration. "This ain't no John F. Kennedy saga. I don't wanna go my lifetime with 'Who killed Jam Master Jay?' "
For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.