The Kansas Crimestoppers organization is offering a $5,000 reward for information that could lead to the recovery of a life-sized Jackie Robinson statue that was stolen from a youth league field in Wichita on January 25.
According to CNN, the organization has also offered an extra $2,500 reward for information that could lead to an arrest. The statue in honor of the Black baseball legend was erected after the League 42 nonprofit raised over $50,000 for the initiative.
The nonprofit, which is named in honor of Robinson, is a “youth baseball league comprised primarily of urban children ages 5 – 14,” its website states. Robinson, who was the first Black player in Major League Baseball, wore number 42 during his professional career.
After being drafted into the Army, Robinson was discharged in 1944. He joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Negro League before eventually becoming the first Black player in major league baseball.
Authorities shared photos of the crime scene in the wake of the theft. The images showed that the only part that remained of the stolen statue was its ankle area.
Wichita City Council member Brandon Johnson told CNN that the statue of the baseball legend and Civil Rights activist “was a symbol of hope” in the city. “It means a whole lot and it’s unfortunate that someone backed in there around midnight and took it,” Johnson said, adding that the theft breaks his “heart for all of those kids and parents and coaches.”
Johnson also said he was optimistic that the stolen statue will be recovered soon. “Our police department has been working day and night to make sure we find out who did this,” said Johnson.
The council member said the public as well as local businesses have aided in investigations by providing camera footage. Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan also said he had been left “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 gathered to learn the history of Jackie Robinson, an American icon, and play the game of baseball. 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. Our city wants the statue returned,” Sullivan added.