Stolen and Burned: The Tragic Loss of a Jackie Robinson Statue in Kansas

A group of firefighters on Tuesday found the burned remains of a prized bronze statue of Jackie Robinson that was stolen last week from a public park in Kansas, according to authorities.

The Wichita Fire Department received a call around 8:40 a.m. to report that a trash can was on fire in Garvey Park, on the south side of the city, and discovered what appeared to be pieces of the statue. , according to police spokesman Andrew Ford. At a news conference Tuesday, he described what was found as “unsalvageable.”

The statue, which was cut down at the figure’s ankles, went missing on Thursday morning. Honors the first player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.

“If it was racially motivated, then obviously it’s a deeper social problem and it would make this a much more troubling robbery,” said Bob Lutz, executive director of the nonprofit Little League organization.

League 42, named after Robinson’s Dodgers number, paid about $50,000 for the statue, which was installed in 2021 at McAdams Park, where about 600 children play in youth baseball league and educational programs.

The police spokesperson said that with the help of arson investigators, they have conducted more than 100 interviews. Surveillance video shows two people dragging the sculpture in the dark to a truck that was later found abandoned.

“It is disheartening to see the remains of the statue and the shameful way in which it has been disrespected. There will be arrests, but we’re going to make sure that when we do, we have a strong case,” said Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan.

Bob Lutz, executive director of League 42, a youth baseball league in Wichita, Kansas, walks past the charred remains of a dumpster where Wichita police found pieces of a stolen statue of Jackie Robinson on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. The life-size statue of Jackie Robinson was cut down at the ankles from the League 42 baseball field on January 25. Police have made no arrests in the case, but said Tuesday that the statue was damaged beyond repair. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP) (Travis Heying)

Robinson is considered not only a sports legend, but also a civil rights icon.

Lutz, the director of the nonprofit, said a new statue that will look exactly the same as the old one will be installed in a matter of months.

Another hypothesis was that the theft had been caused by the value of the bronze.

“This now lets us know that we need a new statue,” said Councilman Brandon Johnson who is now seeking donations for the replacement through local businesses and an online fundraiser.

2024-01-31 18:01:35
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