David Ortiz, the retired baseball star that millions of residents of the greater Boston area call Big Papi, was shot on June 9 at a bar in east Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Details are still emerging from the shooting, but with each piece of new information, it appears to be one of the most bizarre acts of gun violence involving an athlete in a decade.
Prosecutors state that around 8:50 p.m. on Sunday, two men on a motorcycle pulled up to the Dial Bar and Lounge in an upscale nightlife district of the Dominican capital. One of the men rushed Ortiz on the patio and shot him at almost point-blank range, with the bullet entering through his back and exiting through his abdomen. According to an update from Dominican authorities on June 19, Ortiz was not the intended target of the shooting, but rather someone at his table.
Ortiz underwent six hours of surgery in Santo Domingo, where doctors removed his gallbladder and part of his intestines and colon; his liver was also damaged. After he was deemed stable, he was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The bullet that hit Ortiz also struck his friend, TV host Jhoel López, who suffered a wound to his right thigh. López’s wife told reporters his injury was not life-threatening.
According to an emergency-room doctor, as he was wheeled into surgery, Ortiz said, “Please don’t let me die, I’m a good man.” Retired from Major League Baseball since 2016, he lives in Miami but spends a portion of the year in the Dominican Republic — he was in his native country for almost a week before the shooting, promoting a cigar brand and working with a foundation that supplies sports gear to children.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the director of the Dominican National Police and attorney general Jean Alain Rodríguez stated that authorities had arrested six suspects involved in the shooting, including the alleged gunman, who was detained and beaten by the crowd at the bar. Rodriguez states that the hit men had allegedly been paid 400,000 Dominican pesos — a little less than $8,000 — to kill Ortiz. Authorities have not yet determined who put the hit out or what the motive was. CBS News reports that police have encouraged a seventh suspect, known by the alias “the Surgeon,” to turn himself in.
According to court documents, the driver, Eddy Vladimir Feliz García, was detained after he fell off his bike trying to flee the scene. He was also reportedly beaten by civilians at the scene before being handed over to the police. García was charged as an accomplice to attempted murder. The alleged shooter, Ramón Martínez Perez, escaped on foot after attempting to get back on García’s bike, though witnesses were able to identify the car he fled to, and he was tracked down by police. Also among those in custody is Moisés Mirabal Acosta, who had previously served time in prison on a gun charge and was accused of involvement in four execution-style killings also involving drug traffickers in 2013.
Ortiz is a hero in both the Dominican Republic and in New England, for both his sterling baseball career with the Red Sox and his notoriously candid response to the Boston marathon bombing in 2013.
“David continues to recuperate today in the intensive-care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital under the direction of treating trauma surgeon Dr. David King,” Tiffany Ortiz, his wife, said on Wednesday. “Yesterday and this morning, David was able to sit up as well as take some steps. His condition is guarded, and he will remain in the ICU for the coming days, but he is making good progress towards recovery.”
This post has been updated.