U student’s death declared a homicide

Police announced Monday Jenkins was thrown from a Minneapolis bridge.

Kevin Behr

University student Chris Jenkins was thrown from a bridge the night he died in 2002, Minneapolis police announced Monday.

Police initially believed Jenkins had accidentally drowned or committed suicide, but on Friday the department ruled Jenkins’ death a homicide.

At an afternoon press conference, Chief Tim Dolan said the department “made a mistake.”

“We made an assumption,” Dolan said. “We caused pain in the Jenkins family, and, for that, the Minneapolis Police Department and I want to apologize to the Jenkins family.”

Although the case had been closed, Sgt. Pete Jackson of the homicide unit kept working on it on his own, Dolan said.

Jackson said he heard a rumor related to Jenkins’ case and followed up on it. He said he found the rumor to be true after extensive interviewing and travel.

Police have located an eyewitness incarcerated out of state, Jackson said. He said the witness told police Jenkins was thrown from the bridge for a reason, but Jackson declined to describe the motive. The witness is considered a possible suspect at this time, Jackson said.

He said police are also looking to speak with a second person who might have information vital to the case.

Jackson said Jenkins’ death is not related to similar deaths involving college students who have drowned in Minnesota and Wisconsin waterways.

Jenkins was last seen on Halloween 2002 walking near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge after leaving the Lone Tree Bar & Grill in downtown Minneapolis.

Police recovered Jenkins’ body from the Mississippi River in February 2003 beneath the Third Avenue Bridge north of campus.

Steve Jenkins, Chris Jenkins’ father, said he and his wife hired a private investigator immediately after their son disappeared.

“We believed it was a homicide from day one,” he said.

Chuck Loesch, the family’s investigator, said he and the Jenkinses believed the investigative work of the Minneapolis police was “extremely thin.”

Chris Jenkins’ personal profile and the facts of the case conflicted with Minneapolis police’s conclusion, Loesch said. He said his investigation convinced the Jenkinses their son was murdered.

“The work we did was extensive,” Loesch said. “It wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t suicide.”

He said he and the Jenkinses presented his casework, including photographs and other physical evidence to Dolan last year. Dolan agreed Chris Jenkins’ death appeared to be a homicide and reopened the case, Loesch said.

At the press conference, Dolan said no one from outside the police department aided in the reclassification of the case. He admitted to being “inspired” to reopen the case but said no physical evidence helped change the status.

Jackson said the case was reclassified on something “beyond evidence,” but did not elaborate.

Steve Jenkins said he was delighted by the efforts of Dolan and his staff in changing the status of his son’s case.

“We spent four long years working to get to this point,” he said. “We are in total rejoice that (the case) is here now, and we were shocked.”

The 21-year-old Jenkins was the fourth member of his family to attend the University. Both his parents and older sister are alumni, Steve Jenkins said.

“The support we got from the University was absolutely amazing to help us get through this,” he said.

Jan Jenkins called her son, “a smart, athletic kid” who was goalie and captain of the University lacrosse team.

“You can’t justify the death of a 21-year-old,” she said with tears in her eyes. “But to stay sane, we’d say, ‘They must have made him a goalie in heaven.’ “