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Man, 45, arrested in Jackie Robinson statue theft that was not racially motivated, police say

Police announced Tuesday the arrest of a 45-year-old man for the theft of a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson which was later found dismantled and burned.

Wichita police Lt. Aaron Moses said the man was arrested earlier in an unrelated case and charged Monday with theft. He said there was no evidence it was a “hate crime” but instead the intention was to sell the metal for scrap.

Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said this was “just the first arrest” and there would be more to come.

“When you try to take something from this community, they will not tolerate it,” he said, adding that he looked forward to sharing more details about the investigation once other suspects are in detention.

Thieves cut the bronze statue from its base last month in a park in Wichita, Kansas. Only the statue’s feet were left at McAdams Park, where about 600 children play in a youth baseball league called League 42, named after Robinson’ He wears the uniform number of the Brooklyn Dodgers, with whom he broke the major league color barrier in 1947.

Firefighters found the burned remains of the statue five days ago later while responding to a trash fire at another park approximately 7 miles away. A truck believed to have been used in the theft was found abandoned, and police said the theft of the statue, worth an estimated $75,000, was captured on surveillance video.

Sedgwick County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Dan Dillon said the suspect does not yet have an attorney, but one may be named in his honor after his first court appearance Tuesday after -noon. He is jailed on $150,000 bail on charges of felony theft, aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and false information.

Jail records also list charges of contempt of court, kidnapping and probation violation. The suspect has a criminal record that includes burglaries and thefts, according to state Department of Corrections records.

When asked how many other people could face charges, Moses said three people were seen on surveillance video. He also noted that the statue was taken to a location where others were present. He said he could provide no further details because it was an active investigation.

Donations poured in after the theft, approaching $300,000, said Bob Lutz, executive director of the nonprofit Little League that commissioned the sculpture.

Lutz said some of the additional money raised could also improve some of its programs and facilities. In April, the group opened the Leslie Rudd Learning Center, which includes an indoor baseball facility and learning lab.

Lutz, whose friend, artist John Parsons, made the statue before his death, said the mold was still viable and predicted a replacement could be erected within months.

Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, paving the way for generations of black American baseball players. He is considered not only a sports legend, but also a civil rights icon. Robinson died in 1972.

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