Police make arrest in theft, destruction of Jackie Robinson statue

The Wichita (Kansas) Police Department on Tuesday said an arrest has been made nearly three weeks after a Jackie Robinson statue was stolen from a park -- and subsequently found dismantled days later.

Ricky Alderete, 45, is charged with felony theft (value over $25,000), aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information. The statue, which police said was valued at $75,000, was stolen from McAdams Park, the home of League 42, a youth baseball league for about 600 children that commissioned and erected the statue in 2021.

"The investigation has not revealed any evidence indicating that this was a hate-motivated crime," Aaron Moses of the Wichita Police Department said. "We believe this theft was motivated by the financial gain of scrapping common metal."

Bob Lutz, the executive director of the nonprofit League 42 Foundation, said "we're feeling good that someone is being held responsible, and I do believe that all individuals involved will be apprehended."

The statue was cut at its ankles, leaving only bronze replicas of Robinson's cleats behind on an otherwise barren pedestal. Tony Workman, general manager of Art Castings of Colorado, which made the original work into the bronze statue, told ESPN that the Robinson statue was 95% copper.

Moses also said that police remain committed to identifying all individuals involved in the crime.

"We know from the surveillance video [released shortly after the statue was reported missing on Jan. 25] that there were at least three individuals there when statue was taken," Moses said, "and we know it was taken somewhere where other individuals were present."

On Jan. 28, police recovered a vehicle that it believed to be connected to the case at an apartment complex in Wichita. Two days after that, fire crews found burned remnants of the statue while responding to a trash can fire at another park about 7 miles away.

Donations poured in, approaching $300,000, Lutz said. Though the artist has died, the original mold of the statue exists and will be used by Art Castings of Colorado to rebuild a new one.

In a coordinated effort among its clubs, MLB will pay for it after several teams and individuals throughout the sport had wanted to help.

Lutz said he's expecting the new statue to be completed by the middle of the summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.