Jackie Robinson statue stolen from Kansas park

FILE - A portrait of the Brooklyn Dodgers' infielder Jackie Robinson in uniform.

A prized statue of Jackie Robinson was stolen from a public park in Kansas, spurring a police search Friday and outrage across the city of Wichita.

The statue honors the first player to break Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947. Surveillance video was released of two people hauling the sculpture away in the dark. Wichita police said in a Facebook post that it went missing Thursday morning.

The statue was cut at the ankles to be removed. All that remained of the statue Friday were Robinson's feet.

"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 in our community gather to learn the history of Jackie Robinson, an American icon, and play the game of baseball," Wichita police Chief Joe Sullivan said during a news conference Friday. "This should upset all of us."

He said even more troubling was the statue's theft shortly before Black History Month.

Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, paving the way for generations of Black American ballplayers. He's considered not only a sports legend but also a civil rights icon.

Wichita City Council member Brandon Johnson called the theft "horrendous" and "disgusting," and said that residents are feeling hurt and angry, and demanding justice.

"Many people want to find those folks before law enforcement," 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 offered a reward Friday of up to $2,500 for tips leading to arrests and another $5,000 for tips that lead to the statue's recovery.

Sullivan said he hopes area salvage yards will contact police if the statue is brought in for money.

"Once the statue is returned, we also want the individuals who robbed our community of a treasure to be held accountable for their actions," Sullivan said. "And I assure you, they will. The resources of the Wichita Police Department have been mobilized."

Little League nonprofit League 42, named after Robinson's number with the Dodgers, paid about $50,000 for the model of him, Executive Director Bob Lutz said. The sculpture was installed in 2021 in McAdams Park, where the roughly 600 children play in the youth baseball league.