Pieces of the Jackie Robinson statue were found burning in Kansas City Park

Parts of a life-size bronze statue celebrating the legacy of legendary baseball player and civil rights figure Jackie Robinson were found dismantled and burned early Tuesday after it was stolen from a Kansas park last week, authorities said.

The remains of the statue were found after a city worker reported a fire in a trash can in Garvey Park in Wichita at about 8:38 a.m., Andrew Ford, a police spokesman, said in a statement.

The Wichita Fire Department responded and, “while assessing the damage, found parts of the Jackie Robinson statue that had been stolen.”

The fire department immediately notified the police, who collected the pieces at the scene, he said, noting that “unfortunately, the statue is beyond repair.”

Police are continuing to investigate, Ford said, and “they’ve already interviewed over 100 people.” The department is also investigating how the statue was dismantled and how the parts ended up at the scene of the fire. Mr Ford previously said the motive behind the theft of the monument was unknown.

Additionally, fire investigators are looking into the trash can, he said. In a statement published on Facebook, the department said “no additional parts of the statue have been found at this time.”

The statue had an estimated value of $75,000, according to League 42, the Little League nonprofit that installed it in April 2021 at McAdams Park.

The incident sparked outrage in the community, Bob Lutz, executive director of League 42, which is taking over name for number Robinson wore, he said during an interview on Tuesday.

“People want justice to be done,” he said. “No one can understand why this would happen.”

Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball’s modern era, became a symbol of hope for racial equality in the country when he broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. After retiring from baseball, he continued to work on civil rights issues and went on to break barriers in advertising, broadcasting and business.

There are still many questions in the community as to who could have been behind the destruction of the statue. Mr. Lutz said that Garvey Park is “on the other side of town,” about a seven mile drive from the park where the statue was located.

Police obtained surveillance footage of the theft from Thursday morning. The video shows at least two people cutting down the statue and placing it in the bed of a truck that was discreetly parked near the statue, Ford said. At the time, he refused to specify which tools were used to cut the statue.

The nonprofit group can now turn its attention to replacing the statue, Mr. Lutz said, a lengthy process that will take six months. He added that the members of the group “look forward to bringing the people who did this to justice in the very near future.”

League 42 will be able to replace the statue because “we have a mold” created to represent Robinson, Mr. Lutz said, and the organization has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the cost of making a new one.

Training for the organization’s hundreds of players is scheduled to begin on March 11, and the season will officially begin on April 15, which happens to be Jackie Robinson Day.

“I’m so fired up to get our kids on the baseball field, and that’s always the case,” Mr. Lutz said. “We played seven years without a statue of Jackie, but his spirit has always been with us, and we may miss the physical presence of that statue, but we will be inspired to know that it will be replaced.”

He went on to say that Robinson’s message “has never rung louder or truer.”

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