Stolen Jackie Robinson statue found burned, dismantled in trash can: Police

The search for the perpetrators remains active, Wichita police said.

January 30, 2024, 1:22 PM

A statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson stolen from a Kansas park was found dismantled and burned in a trash can fire Tuesday morning in what authorities called a "disgraceful" act, as the search for the perpetrators continues.

The statue was taken from McAdams Park in Wichita last week. Surveillance video captured individuals entering Jackie Robinson Pavilion around midnight on Thursday, removing the statue and placing it in a pickup truck. They cut off the statue at the ankles, leaving behind only Robinson's feet, with damages estimated to be around $75,000.

Around 8:38 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the Wichita Fire Department responded to a report of a trash can fire at Garvey Park, according to Wichita police spokesperson Andrew Ford.

After extinguishing the fire, they found what appeared to be pieces of the Robinson statue, "which is not salvageable at this time," Ford told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday.

A statue of legendary baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson was stolen from the League 42 field in Wichita, Kansas.
Travis Heying/TNS via Newscom

The Wichita Fire Department is investigating the arson, while police continue to investigate the theft, Ford said.

"It's really disheartening to see the remnants of the statue, the disgraceful way it's been disrespected," Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said during the briefing. "This is a direct indication of the pressure our investigators are putting on the perpetrators that committed this act."

Sullivan urged those involved in any way to turn themselves in.

"Either way, we will be arresting several people for what they've done to our community," the chief said.

Police said Monday they have recovered the truck they believe was used to haul away the statue. Sullivan did not provide any additional updates on the vehicle Tuesday.

The statue was built by artist John Parsons and donated to the community by League 42, a nonprofit named after Robinson's number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which aims to introduce baseball to the youth of Wichita.

"This was a heartbreaking discovery this morning. I hate to see that the statue was not in one piece," Wichita Council member Brandon Johnson said at the briefing. "But I do want everyone to know that we are undeterred and making sure that that statue gets rebuilt and put back there for our community, for League 42, for the young people."

"That symbol of hope will only be gone for a short time," he continued.

League 42 founder and CEO Bob Lutz told reporters that the mold from the original statue is still viable, and that they intend to replace the piece in the coming months.

"It will be a joyous occasion -- unlike today, unlike the past five days," Lutz said. "We're ready for some joy. We're ready for some happiness."

In this photo provided by Mel Gregory, a statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, April 18, 2021, in Wichita, Kan.
Mel Gregory via AP

League 42 paid about $50,000 for the sculpture, which was installed in 2021, according to The Associated Press.

Johnson said funds for a new statue are being raised through a GoFundMe campaign and local businesses.

"I'm confident we can get that statue back for our young people and community to enjoy," Johnson said.

Robinson is known for breaking the color barrier in the modern era of MLB. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues and for the minor league Montreal Royals before being signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The signing signaled the end of segregated baseball and led to other Black players joining the major leagues. During his time with the Dodgers, Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947, was named National League MVP in 1949. He was a six-time All-Star, won the World Series in 1955 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

ABC News' Mary Kekatos contributed to this report.