April 15, 2024

An arrest has been made in the theft of a Jackie Robinson statue later found dismantled and burned

A bronze statue of legendary baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson was stolen from a park in Wichita, Kan., during the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. The statue, valued at $75,000, was the centerpiece of the League 42 ballpark facility, a baseball league started in 2015 to help kids with little access to organized sports. The league currently has 600 kids signed up to play this spring. Wichita police said during a Friday news conference that they are working desperately to catch the thieves. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP)

By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH Associated Press
Police say a 45-year-old man has been arrested in the theft of a bronze Jackie Robinson statue found dismantled and burned in Kansas. Wichita police say Tuesday that Ricky Alderete was taken into custody in an unrelated case earlier this month and charged Monday. Police say the motive appeared to be financial and was unrelated to race. Thieves cut the bronze statue from its base at a Wichita park where a youth baseball league called League 42 plays. It is named after Robinson’s uniform number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with whom he broke the major leagues’ color barrier in 1947. Alderete’s attorney in the public defender’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

A 45-year-old man was arrested in the theft of a bronze Jackie Robinson statue that was cut off at the ankles and found days later smoldering in a trash can in a city park in Kansas, police announced Tuesday.
Ricky Alderete was taken into custody earlier this month in a kidnapping case and charged Monday with four counts stemming from the theft and a 2022 case, records show. Wichita police Lt. Aaron Moses said there was no evidence it was a “hate-motivated crime” but rather the intent was to sell the metal for scrap.
Wichita police Chief Joe Sullivan said it was “only the first arrest” and that there were more to come. He did not specify how police determined Alderete was a suspect in the theft.
“When you try to take something from this community, it won’t tolerate it,” he said, adding that he was eager to share more details about the investigation after more suspects are in custody.
Messages left with numbers believed to belong to his family members were not immediately returned. His attorney in the public defender’s office didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Thieves cut the bronze statue from its base last month at a park in Wichita, Kansas. Only the statue’s feet were left at McAdams Park, where about 600 children play in a youth baseball league called League 42. It is named after Robinson’ s uniform number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with whom he broke the major leagues’ color barrier in 1947.
Fire crews found burned remnants of the statue five days later while responding to a trash can fire at another park about 7 miles (11.27 kilometers) away. A truck believed to be used in the theft previously was found abandoned, and police said the theft of the statue was captured on surveillance video.
Alderete, who is jailed on $150,000 bond, faces charges of felony theft and aggravated criminal damage to property in the statue case. He also was charged Monday with identity theft and making false information in an October 2022 incident involving a pawn ticket, the complaint said.
Police provided no details about the case that led to his arrest. But online court records also show he also is charged with kidnapping and aggravated burglary. The criminal complaint said that he entered a Wichita home on Feb. 1 with the intent to kidnap someone as part of an effort to interfere with law enforcement.
Alderete also has a criminal record that includes burglary and theft, state correction department records show.
Asked how many others might face charges, Moses said three people were seen on the surveillance video. He also noted that the statue was taken to a location where others were present. He said he could offer no further details because it was an active investigation.
Donations poured in after the theft, approaching $300,000, said Bob Lutz, executive director of the Little League nonprofit that commissioned the sculpture.
“The power of Jackie Robinson is extremely strong in 2024 and that’s testament to what he stood for,” Lutz said.
Lutz, whose friend, the artist John Parsons, made the statue before his death, said the mold is still viable and anticipated that a replacement can be erected within a matter of months. He estimated it would cost around $50,000 to replace the statue itself, leaving extra money that could be used to enhance some of its programming and facilities.
“It’s going to be put to good use,” he said. In April, for instance, the group opened the Leslie Rudd Learning Center, which includes an indoor baseball facility and a learning lab.
Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, paving the way for generations of Black American ballplayers. He’s considered not only a sports legend but also a civil rights icon. Robinson died in 1972.