Nikko Jenkins has spent his life in the system -
Published Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 10:51 pm
Only in The World-Herald
Nikko Jenkins has spent his life in the system

In 1993, a 7-year-old boy showed up at Omaha's Highland Elementary School with a loaded .25-caliber handgun.

He was briefly taken from his mother — which was the beginning of two decades in and out of group homes, the Douglas County Youth Detention Center and, eventually, state prison.

Nikko A. Jenkins has spent nearly his entire life in prison. When he finally won his freedom, on July 30, he had acquired a face full of tattoos and a handful of female admirers each calling herself his wife.

Douglas County authorities now accuse him of a killing spree in August that left Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Juan Uribe-Pena, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger dead.

“Nikko Jenkins maneuvered through his freedom by using fear, intimidation and violence to get what he wanted,” Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said.

Jenkins' arrest left people wondering: Who is this man with the facial tattoos who's accused of terrorizing the Omaha area for two weeks?

According to interviews and court documents, Jenkins was a menace who blamed his violent crimes on mental illness. Other times he was a charmer who wooed women and attempted to sway prosecutors, judges and even psychiatrists.

To this day, Douglas County sheriff's deputies remember little Nikko as being barely tall enough to see over a counter in juvenile court.

After the gun incident at Highland Elementary, it was just four years until Jenkins was accused of a crime. At age 11, he admitted to stealing on three occasions. That was the last time he was free for any significant period.

It was also around then that he stopped regularly attending school, though he later said he completed his GED in prison.

At first the preteen Jenkins was sent to a group home in Papillion, and his actions soon escalated to violence. In 1998 he was kicked out of the home for repeatedly assaulting other children.

“The latest incident occurred on Feb. 26, 1998, when he used a clothes hanger to hit another minor child, leaving whip marks on this minor,” a probation officer wrote.

Jenkins was sent to the Youth Detention Center, then soon released to the care of his mother, Lori Jenkins. But by the end of the year, the 12-year-old boy was back in the detention center for assaulting someone with a knife.

Eventually he had caused so much trouble and run away so many times that his probation was revoked. In August 2001 he was sent to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center-Kearney. But one year later he was back in Omaha, and soon he began threatening those around him.

His father, David Magee, wrote in court documents that “Nikko Jenkins has threatened my life and pulled a sawed-off shotgun on me at my own home.”

Soon after, Nikko Jenkins stole two cars at gunpoint. In one incident he ordered a 21-year-old man out of his black Honda Civic and took off in it.

In the second incident he asked a 20-year-old woman for a ride. When she declined, he got into the back of her 1983 maroon Cadillac DeVille, brandished a shotgun and told her to drive to 22nd Street and Grand Avenue. There, he ordered her out.

For the robberies, Jenkins was sent to prison in 2003, and he wasn't released for a decade.

The violence didn't end in prison. He was charged twice: once for assaulting a guard while on furlough at his grandmother's funeral and once for his part in a prison riot.

He also was disciplined several times for his tattoo activities, attacking other inmates, gang activity and fashioning a weapon out of a toilet brush.

Once he got out, Jenkins reconnected with his family, his female friends and a prison buddy: Curtis Bradford.

Bradford's family warned him about Jenkins, a relative said. But Bradford wouldn't listen, and he even posted a picture of himself with Jenkins on Facebook the day before he died.

“He just got caught up in the wrong crowd,” the relative said.

Friends and relatives say Bradford and Jenkins might have been trying to rob someone the night Bradford was shot in the back of the head.

Jenkins attributed his problems to mental illness.

He told a psychiatrist of a family history of mental illness and said he first went to a psychiatrist at the former Richard Young Center when he was 8 or 9. He said a Tecumseh State Prison doctor diagnosed him as schizophrenic, bipolar and obsessive-compulsive.

In several hearings before Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall, Jenkins kept trying to enter an insanity plea. At the same time, he consistently told corrections officers and a judge that he wasn't going to take medications for his mental illness.

“You've chosen not to take those?” Randall asked Jenkins at a sentencing hearing in July 2011.

“Because of the hostile environment that I'm currently living in,” Jenkins said. “The medication is to basically kill my adrenaline, because when I have mental breakdowns, I become enraged and I lash out on others. So the medicine that they give me, it slows me down and it basically puts me in almost a paralyzing, you know, state of mind.”

Jenkins told the judge that his attack on a Tecumseh corrections officer was “a mental breakdown as a result of my mental disorders.”

But a psychiatrist evaluating Jenkins' ability to stand trial in 2010 wrote that he believed the inmate was making up at least some of his symptoms.

Randall had ordered an evaluation by a Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrist. On July 20, 2010, Dr. Scott Moore met with Jenkins at the Douglas County Correctional Center.

He told the doctor that his problems stemmed from abuse he said he suffered at the hands of family members when he was young. He went on to say that he heard voices from Egyptian gods. That wasn't all, Moore wrote in his report.

“After a little bit, (Jenkins) went on to tell me that he was told that he should eat human brains because that's where the pituitary gland was and it would strengthen him to do so.”

Moore's conclusion: Jenkins was faking it.

He said Jenkins seemed to have thought out the symptoms beforehand. If Moore didn't accept Jenkins' symptoms, the inmate would escalate his descriptions, Moore wrote.

“I believe his major diagnosis is Antisocial Personality Disorder, and I doubt the presence of psychosis,” Moore wrote.

Assistant Public Defender Gary Olson took exception to that, noting that a nurse at the Douglas County Correctional Center had recommended that Jenkins be transferred to the Lincoln Regional Center.

The idea that Jenkins “was making up his mental illness, I think, is contradicted by the number, quite frankly, the number of tattoos on his face,” Olson said.

Contact the writer: Roseann Moring    |   402-444-1084    |  

Roseann covers Bellevue and Sarpy County crime.

Contact the writer: Todd Cooper    |   402-444-1275

Todd covers courts and legal issues for The World-Herald.

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