An arrest has been made in theft of Jackie Robinson statue later found dismantled, burned

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Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan speaks during a news conference on Feb 13 in Wichita, Kan. Police say a 45-year-old man has been arrested in the theft of a bronze Jackie Robinson statue found dismantled and burned. (AP)

WASHINGTON, Feb 14, (AP): A 45-year-old man was arrested in the theft of a bronze Jackie Robinson statue that was cut off at the ankles and found days later smoldering in a trash can in a city park in Kansas, police announced Tuesday.
Ricky Alderete was taken into custody earlier this month in a kidnapping case and charged Monday with four counts stemming from the theft and a 2022 case, records show. Wichita police Lt Aaron Moses said there was no evidence it was a “hate-motivated crime” but rather the intent was to sell the metal for scrap.
Wichita police Chief Joe Sullivan said it was “only the first arrest” and that there were more to come. He did not specify how police determined Alderete was a suspect in the theft.
“When you try to take something from this community, it won’t tolerate it,” he said, adding that he was eager to share more details about the investigation after more suspects are in custody.
Messages left with numbers believed to belong to his family members were not immediately returned. His attorney in the public defender’s office didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Thieves cut the bronze statue from its base last month at 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. It is named after Robinson’s uniform number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with whom he broke the major leagues’ color barrier in 1947.
Fire crews found burned remnants of the statue five days later while responding to a trash can fire at another park about 7 miles (11.27 kilometers) away. A truck believed to be used in the theft previously was found abandoned, and police said the theft of the statue was captured on surveillance video.
Alderete, who is jailed on $150,000 bond, faces charges of felony theft and aggravated criminal damage to property in the statue case. He also was charged Monday with identity theft and making false information in an October 2022 incident involving a pawn ticket, the complaint said.
Police provided no details about the case that led to his arrest. But online court records also show he also is charged with kidnapping and aggravated burglary. The criminal complaint said that he entered a Wichita home on Feb. 1 with the intent to kidnap someone as part of an effort to interfere with law enforcement.
Alderete also has a criminal record that includes burglary and theft, state correction department records show.
Asked how many others might face charges, Moses said three people were seen on the surveillance video. He also noted that the statue was taken to a location where others were present. He said he could offer 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 Little League nonprofit that commissioned the sculpture.

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