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Destroyed Jackie Robinson statue: Man charged in theft, other suspects still sought

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(WICHITA, Kan.) — A suspect has been arrested and charged in connection with the theft and destruction of a statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson that was stolen from a Kansas park last month, authorities announced on Tuesday.

The statue was discovered missing from McAdams Park in Wichita on Jan. 25, with Robinson’s feet the only part that remained. Pieces of the statue were found days later, on Jan. 30, in a burning trash can in Garvey Park, authorities said.

A suspect in the incident — 45-year-old Ricky Alderete — was charged by the Sedgwick County district attorney on Monday with felony theft, aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information, the Wichita Police Department said.

Police are “very confident” that this is not a race-related crime, according to Wichita Police Department Lt. Aaron Moses. Rather, the statue was allegedly stolen for the potential financial value of the metal, he said.

“The investigation has not revealed any evidence indicating that this was a hate-motivated crime,” Moses said during a press briefing on Tuesday announcing the arrest and charges. “Instead, we believe this theft was motivated by the financial gain of scrapping common metal.”

The theft and destruction of the statue shocked the community.

“This is an occurrence that should not have happened,” Wichita Council member Brandon Johnson said during Tuesday’s briefing, adding he was “baffled” over the alleged motive.

“Hopefully this is a testament to all who might think about doing something like this in the future,” he said.

Surveillance footage captured at least three people at the scene during the theft of the statue, which was then transported to a place where investigators have determined more people were present, Moses said. He did not say how many total suspects are being sought in the case amid the investigation.

Police said they recovered the truck they believe was used to haul away the statue at an apartment complex in Wichita on Jan. 28. The vehicle is not believed to have been owned by Alderete, according to Moses, who did not elaborate on the suspect’s alleged role in the case.

Alderete remains in custody, police said. It is unclear if he has an attorney at this time.

The police department received more than 100 tips in the case. Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan thanked the community for their help.

“If you try to take something from this community, it won’t tolerate it,” Sullivan said during the briefing. “I am confident this is only the first arrest.”

The statue was built by artist John Parsons and installed in 2021. It was donated to the community by League 42, a nonprofit named after Robinson’s number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which aims to introduce baseball to the youth of Wichita. The damage was estimated by city officials to be around $75,000.

The MLB’s Commissioner’s Office and the 30 Clubs have “committed funding” toward the cost of replacing the statue, according to League 42 founder and CEO Bob Lutz.

Funds for a new statue are being raised through a GoFundMe campaign and local businesses, Johnson said.

Robinson is known for breaking the color barrier in the modern era of MLB. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues and for the minor league Montreal Royals before being signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The signing signaled the end of segregated baseball and led to other Black players joining the major leagues. During his time with the Dodgers, Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947, and was named National League MVP in 1949. He was a six-time All-Star, won the World Series in 1955 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

ABC News’ Mary Kekatos contributed to this report.

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