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Rosemont police quash calls for FBI to take over Kenneka Jenkins case

Rally participant Charles Harris lights candles outside the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, during a protest on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, where Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a freezer earlier this month. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

Chants, clanging pots and pans and at least three megaphones filled the air around the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont on Monday night, with protesters again calling for federal intervention in the death investigation of Kenneka Jenkins, the 19-year-old Chicago woman found dead in the hotel freezer earlier this month.

Distrustful of police in the northwest suburb, protesters urged the FBI to take the reins. About an hour before the protest began, though, Rosemont police issued a statement saying that would not happen.

“This investigation has been and remains the utmost priority for us,” Rosemont Police Chief Donald E. Stephens III said in the statement. “Throughout this investigation we have used any and all outside agencies necessary to complete a thorough investigation and will continue to do so as needed.”

“I am fully confident in the ability of each and every one of the officers, detectives, and leadership team charged with this case. At no time have I doubted the work that is being done.”

Jedidiah Brown, a Chicago activist, said he was extremely skeptical of the investigation’s integrity.

“It’s just strange,” Brown said. “And until the mom has peace and Kenneka has true justice, we’re going to keep on the fight.”

Kenneka Jenkins | Facebook photo

Rosemont police have said Jenkins’ death is considered noncriminal and that there was “no credible evidence at this point” that would prompt police to reclassify Jenkins’ death as a murder. Her autopsy was inconclusive pending further study.

Along with Brown, Lamon Reccord and Ja’Mal Green — two other high-profile Chicago activists — attended the protest. Joining them and about 100 other attendees were Jenkins’ sister and mother, Tereasa Martin.

At one point during the protest, Reccord appeared to pass out, prompting an ambulance to be called. Martin accompanied Reccord to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Even as Reccord — who first gained notoriety during the Laquan McDonald protests in 2015 — was being loaded into the ambulance, protesters continued their chants, calling for authorities to release “the whole tape” of what happened to Jenkins before her death.

Officials with Crowne Plaza, though, have said several times that they have offered Jenkins’ mother the chance to view all 36 hours of footage. A spokesman for the hotel said Monday that the family has yet to respond to the offer. The hotel also said it would cover the 19-year-old’s funeral costs.

As of Monday afternoon, “We have not heard from the family or their representatives,” hotel spokesman Glenn Harston told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The attorneys for Jenkins’ mother, Larry Rogers Jr. and Sam Adam Jr., could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Rally participants, including Anthony Lesure (right) gather outside the Crowne Plaza hotel on Monday. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

Last Friday, Rosemont police opted to release nine video clips showing Jenkins walking through the hotel in the hours before her death. She can be seen walking unsteadily — and alone — down a hallway and through the hotel’s kitchen before disappearing around a corner. None of the released footage — about 36 minutes worth — shows her going into the freezer.

The release of the videos came hours after the lawyer for Jenkins’ mother said “serious questions remain” about the circumstances involving Jenkins’ death — and capped a week of apparent miscommunication between several of the parties involved.

Rosemont police opted to make the videos public during a press conference held by Jenkins’ mother’s attorneys — during which those attorneys repeatedly said they had been shown only a few “snippets” of video from the night Jenkins died.

Jenkins left her home near the United Center at 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 to go to a party in a room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, according to Rosemont Police. Jenkins’ sister last heard from her via text message about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

A sign for Kenneka Jenkins outside the Crowne Plaza hotel. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

About 4 a.m., Jenkins’ friends called her mother to tell her they could not find her, longtime Chicago anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes has said. An hour later, Martin — who had recently undergone a double mastectomy — was at the hotel. She filled out a police report and Jenkins’ sister reported her missing.

Jenkins was last seen by her friends at a party on the ninth floor of the hotel in the early hours of Saturday, Sept. 9, police said. She was reported missing at 1:16 p.m. that afternoon. Police told Martin that surveillance footage showed Jenkins inebriated near the front desk, according to Holmes.

Hotel staff and management searched the hotel and discovered Jenkins inside a freezer at 12:24 a.m. Sunday, police said.

For more than a week, Twitter and Facebook have been deluged with theories about Jenkins’ death — with many believing she was murdered.

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