Authorities are calling on the public for help in finding the suspects who stole a statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson from a public park in Wichita, Kansas.
Surveillance video captured the suspects entering Jackie Robinson Pavilion in McAdams Park around midnight on Thursday and removing the statue, placing it in a pickup truck.
The suspects cut off the statue at the ankles, leaving behind only Robinson's feet. The city estimates the damages are around $75,000.
"I’m frustrated by the actions of those individuals who had the audacity to take the statue of Jackie Robinson from a park where kids and families and our community gather to learn the history of Jackie Robinson, an American icon, and play the game of baseball," Wichita Chief of Police Joe Sullivan said during a Friday press conference. "This should upset all of us. What troubles me even more is that the theft occurred just before the beginning of February, which marks the start of Black History Month."
The statue was built by artist John Parsons and donated to the community by League 42, a nonprofit named after Robinson’s number with the Brooklyn Dodgers that aims to introduce baseball to the youth of Wichita.
According to the Associated Press, League 42 paid about $50,000 for the sculpture, which was installed in 2021.
"Overnight, something really terrible happened. The Jackie Robinson statue at our McAdams Park facility for League 42 was stolen," the non-profit wrote in a Facebook post. "This is a gut punch to our organization."
Councilman Brandon Johnson, a member of the Wichita City Council, said during the press conference said he’s spoken to many families that feel hurt and disappointment over the statue being stolen.
"It was one of the few times in life I’m speechless. This horrendous, disgusting act really caused me a pause," Johnson said. "So again, like the chief and the [district attorney] said, if you've got that statue, bring it here today, now."
The Wichita Metro Crime Commission said during the press conference it is offering up to a $2,500 reward for tips leading to arrests and a separate reward up to $5,000 for tips that lead to finding the statue. The tips can be made anonymously.
"Once the statue is returned, we also want the individuals who robbed our community of a treasure to be held accountable for their actions and I assure you they will," Sullivan said. "The resources of the Wichita Police Department have been mobilized."
Robinson is known for being the first baseball player to break the color barrier in the modern era of Major League Baseball. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues and for the minor league Montreal Royals before being signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
The signing signaled the end of segregated baseball and led to other Black players to joining the major leagues. During his time with the Dodgers, Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947, was named National League MVP in 1949, was a six-time All Star and won the World Series in 1955.