DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — Bystanders at the shooting of former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz beat up one of two suspects before handing him over to police, the Dominican Republic National Police said Monday, June 10.
Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back and “the bullet went through his stomach,” Felix Durán Mejia, a spokesman for the national police, told CNN.
Ortiz was recovering from surgery after he was shot Sunday night at a club in his native Santo Domingo, according to police. He remained in intensive care after being treated for bleeding in his liver and having portion of his intestines and gall bladder removed, said Leo Lopez, Ortiz’s media assistant.
Suspect Eddy Vladimir Féliz García of nearby Santo Domingo West, its own city, and another man approached the Dial Discotheque on a motorcycle before at least one opened fire, hitting Ortiz and his friend, police said in a statement. They tried to drive away, but the motorcycle fell to the pavement.
The crowd attacked Féliz García and handed him over to police, while the second suspect fled on foot, police said. The suspect was treated at Hospital Dr. Dario Contreras in Santo Domingo and was in police custody, the statement said.
Ortiz does not know the suspect in custody, nor does he know why he was shot, though Lopez said Ortiz is confident the shooting was not a robbery attempt.
The former slugger was in stable condition, and his family hoped to move him to the United States as soon as doctors gave the OK, said Lopez, who was with Ortiz’s relatives at the hospital. Tiffany, Ortiz’s wife of more than 16 years, was still in the United States as of early Monday afternoon, the media assistant said.
Video shows gunman open fire
Surveillance footage from the club showed an area of packed tables. Clubgoers were drinking, mingling and fiddling with their phones when a shooter approached from the top of the screen, the short video clip showed.
Only a shooter’s legs were visible when a shot was fired, appearing to hit Ortiz in the back. Ortiz slumped to his left and fell out of his chair. Frightened bystanders knocked over chairs as they fled.
Ortiz’s agent, Fernando Cuza, who has seen the video, confirmed to CNN that the man who fell from his chair was Ortiz.
Leo Ortiz spoke to reporters outside the hospital after his son’s surgery.
“He is resting right now. He is stable,” he said in Spanish.
Television host Jhoel Lopez, who was with David Ortiz, was also shot, according to his wife, Liza Blanco.
“They were both on their backs. It was very fast. He doesn’t remember much because he was also in shock from the bullet wound,” Blanco told reporters in Spanish. “But thank God he is stable.”
Hours before the shooting, Lopez posted a photo of Ortiz posing alongside him, flashing a peace sign. The caption said, “You know that we are from the street.”
Suspects in custody
Multiple people were detained in connection with the shooting, Durán Mejia said. Investigators were examining evidence in the case, including the suspect’s Bajaj Platina brand motorcycle.
National police had not formally interviewed Ortiz, said spokesman Capt. Luis Manuel Pimentel, adding that the former ballplayer was “pretty beat up.” Police would speak to Ortiz soon, he said.
Ortiz, also known as Big Papi, was reared in Santo Domingo and made his Major League Baseball debut in 1997.
The first baseman and designated hitter played 20 seasons before retiring in 2016. While Ortiz’s major league career began with the Minnesota Twins, he is best known for his 14 seasons in Boston as the Red Sox’s designated hitter.
In 2004, he helped the Red Sox to their first championship since 1918, ending the so-called “Curse of the Bambino. Fans, mostly tongue-in-cheek, blamed the team’s decades-long championship drought on the 1919 decision to trade legend Babe Ruth, aka the Bambino, to the rival New York Yankees.
Ortiz was also on the Red Sox title teams of 2007 and 2013. He was named World Series MVP in 2013.
The 2013 championship came just months after the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 200 others. Ortiz emerged as a champion for the city in the bombings’ aftermath, and his tribute to Boston the day after police captured the bomber gained national attention.
“This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston,” Ortiz said, standing on the infield as the crowd cheered police officers who were on the field. “This is our (expletive) city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
Sports world responds to shooting
Professional athletes sent Ortiz, a married father of three, prayers and wishes for a speedy recovery late Sunday as news of the shooting surfaced.
Longtime friend and fellow Dominican baseball legend Pedro Martinez posted an old photo of him embracing the much larger Ortiz and said, “I’m at peace knowing you out of danger; you a strong man Compai, can’t wait to hear your voice. My thoughts and prayers are with you, see you soon.”
“It’s crazy to hear what happened to David Ortiz. It goes to show you that anyone can be in danger at anytime no matter your status. Get well soon Big Papi. I’m praying for you,” said New York Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes.
“Anxiously waiting for more news. In the meantime, only prayers for @davidortiz, Tiffany and their family,” said former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez on Twitter.
MLB tweeted its support as well.
“Our thoughts are with David Ortiz, who is reportedly hospitalized after being shot in his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,” the league’s tweet read.
In his career in the majors, Ortiz hit 541 home runs and had a career batting average of .286. In the 2013 World Series, he batted .688 with two home runs, six RBIs and eight walks, finishing with a .760 on-base percentage.
Ortiz retired after the 2016 season, and the Red Sox retired his number in 2017. He will be eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame at the end of 2021.