Police announce arrest in theft, destruction of Jackie Robinson statue; additional arrests likely


Law enforcement in Wichita, Kansas announced the arrest of a suspect connected to the theft of a bronze Jackie Robinson statue

The statue was stolen from a public park and was later found dismantled and burned. On Tuesday, Wichita police said Ricky Alderete, 45, was taken into custody earlier this month due to his connection to an unrelated case. He has a criminal record that includes burglary and theft, state correction department records show.

But, on Monday, Alderete was charged with the theft of the Robinson statue. It remains unclear how investigators ultimately came to the conclusion that Alderete was a suspect in the theft.

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Police announced Tuesday, Feb. 13,  the arrest of a man in the theft of the Jackie Robinson statue that later was found dismantled and burned.  (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP, File)

Police noted that evidence did not suggest that the crime was “hate-motivated.” The suspect instead seemed to intended to sell the metal for scrap. Authorities added that more arrests would likely be made in the future.

The statue had an estimated value of $75,000.

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“When you try to take something from this community, it won’t tolerate it,” Wichita police Lieutenant Aaron Moses said.

Alderete does not yet have an attorney, but one may be named for him after his first court appearance Tuesday Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Dan Dillon said.

The statue was located inside Wichita’s McAdams park where hundreds of children participate in a youth baseball league called League 42. Bob Lutz, the executive director of the nonprofit League 42 Foundation, noted that “we’re feeling good that someone is being held responsible, and I do believe that all individuals involved will be apprehended.”

Jackie Robinson pavilion in Kansas

A group of people gathered at the baseball legend Jackie Robinson pavilion at McAdams Park in Wichita, Kan. on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.  (Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle via AP, File)

Lutz added that donations have approached $300,000 since the theft.

The statue was cut from its base, leaving only bronze replicas of the legendary baseball player’s cleats behind. Robinson broke the major league’s color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The franchise later moved to California in 1957, where it continues its history as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the days following the theft, fire crews burned the remnants of the statue while responding to a trash can fire at a nearby park. Authorities also recovered an abandoned truck that was believed to be used in the theft.

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Lutz, whose friend, the artist John Parsons, made the statue before his death, said the mold is still viable and anticipated that a replacement will be completed at some point in the summer. Major League Baseball, in a coordinated effort with its franchises, will cover the costs of the new statue.

Alderete is jailed on $150,000 bond on charges of felony theft, aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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