Vandals steal statue of baseball icon Jackie Robinson from Wichita park: ‘This should upset all of us’

Authorities are looking for information involving the brazen theft of a statue of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson from a public park in Wichita, Kansas.

A historically significant figure who transcended sports to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier by becoming the first black player when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Robinson became a civil rights icon whose legacy is celebrated to this day.

On Thursday, a pair of thieves made off with the cherished bronze statue that was displayed in McAdams Park, the home of League 42 –  a local youth baseball league as well as the Jackie Robinson Pavilion.

The criminal act was caught on surveillance video showing the duo absconding with the statue which they sawed off, leaving only the iconic cultural figure’s feet standing on the base. Some city officials suspect that the statue will be sold as scrap metal.

(Video: KWCH 12 News)

“Overnight, our @League42ICT Jackie Robinson statue at McAdams Park was stolen. Someone cut it just above Jackie’s shoes and hauled it off in a truck. Our organization is devastated. So am I,” wrote League 42 Foundation founder Bob Lutz on X.

“We noticed it around noon today when I had left the building, I always look over at the Jackie statue and I looked over today and I didn’t notice it or I couldn’t see it,” Lutz said, according to KAKE. “This is a sacred place, this is a place where we honor a man who broke down barriers and did things that had never been done before,”

“I’m frustrated by the actions of those individuals who had the audacity to take the statue of Jackie Robinson from a park where kids and families in our community gather to learn the history of Jackie Robinson, an American icon, and play the game of baseball,” Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said during a Friday news conference. “This should upset all of us.”

Robinson’s statue was stolen only days before the beginning of Black History Month, the annual recognition of the culture and contributions of black people which – thanks to the leap year – gets an extra day in 2024.

“What troubles me even more is that this theft occurred just before the beginning of February, which marks the start of Black History Month,” Sullivan said. “Our city wants the statute returned. We also want the individuals who robbed our community of a treasure to be held accountable for their actions.”

Brandon Johnson, a member of the Wichita City Council, said that the theft of Robinson’s statue was “horrendous” and “disgusting,” suggesting that vigilante justice could be a possibility.

“Many people want to find those folks before law enforcement,” Johnson said, according to the Associated Press. “So again, like the chief and the (district attorney) said, if you’ve got that statue, bring it here today. Now.”

“Once the statue is returned, we also want the individuals who robbed our community of a treasure to be held accountable for their actions,” Chief Sullivan said. “And I assure you, they will. The resources of the Wichita Police Department have been mobilized.”

The Wichita Metro Crime Commission has offered a reward of up to $2,500 for tips if they lead to arrests and another $5,000 if they lead to the statue being recovered.

Chris Donaldson

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