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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Man charged in the theft of a Jackie Robinson statue

By Julie Bosman

A 45-year-old Kansas man has been charged in the theft of a life-size bronze statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson from a park in Wichita, Kansas. The police in Wichita said earlier this week that the motive for the crime was probably to sell the statue for scrap metal.

The man, Ricky Alderete, was charged Monday with felony theft, aggravated criminal damage to property and making false information, police said.

Lt. Aaron Moses of the Wichita Police Department said Tuesday that an investigation was continuing, but that concerns that the theft of the statue might have been racially motivated had been put to rest.

“The investigation has not revealed any evidence indicating this was a hate-motivated crime,” Moses said. “Instead, we believe this theft was motivated by the financial gain of scrapping common metal.”

Alderete was in custody Tuesday, and a lawyer who has represented him could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nearly all of the 275-pound statue of Robinson disappeared from McAdams Park in Wichita in January. Only the shoes at the base of the statue had been left behind.

Police later found surveillance video showing that a truck was parked near the statue as it was cut down and placed on the truck bed. The vehicle was later found at an apartment complex, police said.

Pieces of the statue were found by a city worker several days later in a burning trash can in another Wichita park. The statue was deemed to be irreparably damaged.

Its estimated value was $75,000, according to League 42, a nonprofit group that installed the statue in 2021. After the theft, a GoFundMe campaign to support League 42 raised nearly $200,000.

Robinson, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues, later broke the color barrier when he became the first Black player to play in Major League Baseball.

Brandon Johnson, a City Council member in Wichita, said he hoped that the arrest in the case would send a message to the community, which was outraged by the statue’s disappearance.

“This is an occurrence that should not have happened,” Johnson said. “Hopefully this is a testament to all who might think about doing something like this in the future.”

Chief Joe Sullivan of the Wichita Police Department said the arrest of Alderete was not the end of the case.

“If you try to take something from this community, it won’t tolerate it,” he said. “I am confident this is only the first arrest and there are more to come.”

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