Kan. FFs find vandalized Jackie Robinson statue in burning trash can
Wichita Engine Company 22 firefighters found the dismantled remains of the stolen Jackie Robinson statue during overhaul
By Michael Stavola
The Kansas City Star
WICHITA, Kan. — A Wichita youth-baseball league’s Jackie Robinson statue — which was cut at its feet and stolen from McAdams Park last week, leading to a citywide manhunt and national media attention — was found charred and in pieces Tuesday morning in Garvey Park.
“It’s not salvageable at this time,” Wichita police spokesperson Andrew Ford said at a news conference at the park, which is in south Wichita.
Council member Brandon Johnson said a new statue will be built. He urged people to contribute whatever they can to support that.
League 42 still has a mold from the original sculptor, the late John Parsons, so the new statue will be identical, League 42 founder and executive director Bob Lutz said.
“This is not the result we wanted, but it is a result,” Lutz said. “And now we can move on. We know what’s ahead of us, we know we are going to incorporate a brand-new statue that looks exactly like the old one … We are already working on that. In a matter of months that will be erected at McAdams Park and we are looking forward to that day.”
A GoFundMe has been created to raise funds for the replacement statue. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had raised just over $22,000. An online fundraiser also has been set up to help replace the statue. It can be found at shorturl.at/dgAWZ.
“Any donations that exceed our goal will be put to use to fund our operational needs, including our four education programs,” the GoFundMe said.
First responders were called to a trash can fire at the park around 8:38 a.m. and found the statue. When firefighters extinguished the flames, they found pieces of the bronze statue.
The statue, valued at $75,000, was dismantled before it was burned, Police Chief Joe Sullivan said.
“It’s really disheartening to see the remnants of the statue, the disgraceful way in which it has been disrespected,” Sullivan said. “This is a direct indication of the pressure our investigators are putting on the perpetrators that committed this act.”
He added “there will be arrests” and that it would be better for the people involved to come forward. Sullivan thanked the people who have provided tips and Ring doorbell camera footage from the theft.
On Monday, police announced that they had found what they thought was the truck used in the crime. It wasn’t reported stolen and police have talked with the owner.
Sullivan wouldn’t say if the owner of the truck was a suspect.
Ford said police have conducted close to if not over 100 interviews since the statue was stolen early Thursday morning. Vandals cut the statue at the feet and then loaded it in a truck and took off, according to surveillance video.
The statue was installed in spring 2021.
It was a focal point of League 42, a nonprofit organization that serves several hundred low-income youth in its baseball league every year.
Robinson, who wore No. 42, was the first Black player to break the racial barrier and play in Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The league is named after him.
It took years of work for the league to get approval for the statue to be created and installed.
Donations, large and small, have poured in from around the country in support of the statue.
On Saturday morning, about 80 people gathered amid frigid temperatures around the space where the statue had been.
Marcus Jones, 7, who is going to play baseball in the league for the first time this year handed Lutz $2 from his allowance to help the cause. Sullivan announced that, through a connection he had in Philadelphia, an anonymous former Major League Baseball player who won a World Series would donate $10,000.
The theft caused local and national outrage.