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Suspect charged in theft of Jackie Robinson statue that was found burned in Kansas

A suspect has been arrested in connection with the theft of a life-sized Jackie Robinson statue in Kansas that was later found burned and in pieces, authorities said Tuesday.

Ricky Alderete, 45, faces recommended charges of felony theft of value over $25,000, aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information, Wichita police told reporters.

Officials on Tuesday said there is no evidence of a hate crime, adding the statue appears to have been stolen to sell off its metal.

Investigators continue to look for additional suspects, police said, noting at least three people were seen on surveillance video when the bronze statue of the pioneer athlete was stolen on Jan. 25 from a Wichita park and sports complex.

The statue was found five days later burning in a trash can. The burned pieces of the statue were not salvageable, officials said.

Alderete was taken into custody earlier in an unrelated case and charged Monday, police said. Alderete was being held Tuesday at the Sedgwick County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bond. It was unclear if he had retained an attorney.

In 1947, Robinson became the first player to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

Wichita police Sgt. Trevor McDonald, who is with the department’s unit that investigates larcenies, said on Tuesday: “This case started out with an area that is fairly secluded and with good video tips, with a lot of good community effort, with other persons giving information,” police were able to develop “suspects on this case,” he said.

Wichita police Chief Joe Sullivan said Alderete’s arrest was only the first, and there were more to come.

“If you try to take something from this community, it won’t tolerate it,” he added.

Security video on the day of the theft shows people hauling away the sculpture in the dark and loading it onto a truck that was later found abandoned. Photos show people cutting through the statue near its base. All that was left was Robinson’s bronze cleats, officials said.

City Council member Brandon Johnson, who grew up in Wichita, said on Tuesday during the news conference that the theft should have never happened.

“We were all baffled and even talking earlier about why something like this would happen,” he said. “Hopefully this is a testament to all who might think about doing something like this in the future.”

The statue was erected at McAdams Park in 2021 with the help of Wichita’s League 42, a youth baseball league named in Robinson’s honor. League 42 hopes to unveil its new tribute to Robinson later this year.

Replacing the statue will cost an estimated $75,000.

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