With David Ortiz at Boston hospital, DR police seek answers
Former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has taken his first steps after undergoing a second surgery to address his injuries after being shot over the weekend in the Dominican Republic, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Ortiz’s wife, Tiffany, and their children have been by his side, and were with him as he walked a few steps with help at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is being treated, spokesman Leo Lopez told CNN.
Lopez was unable to provide further detail about Ortiz’s condition. “He’ll be in intensive care for a while,” he said.
Earlier, Tiffany Ortiz said her husband was “stable, awake, and resting comfortably” in Mass General’s intensive care unit, “where he is expected to remain for the next several days,” according to a statement released by the Major League Baseball club.
The Red Sox sent a plane to carry their beloved retired star Monday to Boston from the Dominican Republic, his homeland, where he and a friend were shot Sunday night at a nightclub in Santo Domingo.
Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back, and “the bullet went through his stomach,” Felix Durán Mejia, a spokesman for the Dominican Republic National Police, told CNN.
He had an initial surgery in the Dominican Republic, suffering bleeding in his liver and needing portions of his intestines and gallbladder removed, said Lopez.
Ortiz exchanged words with his father and his sister before being sedated for Monday’s flight to Boston, and his wife — who was in the United States when the shooting happened — met him at the Boston hospital, Lopez said.
One suspect is in custody, and investigators are looking for at least one other man in connection with Sunday night’s shooting, police said.
The reason for the shooting wasn’t immediately clear. Ortiz does not know the man being held or why he was shot, and he’s confident it was not a robbery attempt, Lopez said Monday.
Tiffany Ortiz thanked Red Sox officials — including owners John and Linda Henry — for their support and helping her husband get to Boston for further treatment.
Video shows gunman open fire
Ortiz and his friend Jhoel Lopez, a television host, were shot Sunday night at the Dial Bar and Lounge in the Dominican Republic’s capital.
Surveillance footage from the club shows an area of packed tables. Clubgoers are drinking, mingling and fiddling with their phones when a shooter approaches from the top of the screen, a short video clip shows.
Only a shooter’s legs are visible when a shot is fired and apparently hits a seated Ortiz in the back. Ortiz slumps to his left and falls out of his chair. Frightened bystanders knock over chairs as they flee.
Ortiz’s agent, Fernando Cuza, who has seen the video, confirmed to CNN that the man who falls from his chair is Ortiz.
Jhoel Lopez was also shot, according to his wife, Liza Blanco. His condition was stable Monday, Blanco said, according to CNN affiliate Telesistema.
“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.
Mother of one suspect says he is innocent
One suspect is being held after bystanders captured him, and another man is on the loose, Dominican Republic authorities say.
Eddy Vladimir Féliz García and the second man arrived at the Dial nightclub Sunday on a motorcycle before one of them eventually opened fire, police said.
They tried to drive away after the shooting, but the motorcycle fell to the pavement, police said.
A crowd attacked Féliz García and handed him over to police, while the second man fled, police said. The suspect was treated at Hospital Dr. Dario Contreras in Santo Domingo and is now in custody, police said.
Féliz García has a 2017 drug charge and lives in Las Caobas, West Santo Domingo, police said.
Justina Garcia, mother of the suspect, says he is innocent.
“We really like him, and my son and I are fans of his,” she told CNN. “My son had nothing to do with this.”
Justina Garcia said she wants police to provide security for her son because she fears for his safety.
Garcia’s lawyer, David Solano, claims that his client is a motorcycle taxi driver and may have unwittingly driven the shooter, but did not shoot Ortiz.
Santo Domingo’s Ministry of Interior and Police announced a “provisional closing” of the Dial Bar and Lounge on Monday after the weekend shooting. The ministry’s Control of Alcoholic Beverages program initiated the closure.
The club has three days to give its account of what happened as police investigate the shooting, the ministry said.
After a police officer’s ID card was shared on social media implicating him in the crime, the Dominican Republic National Police denied any agents were involved.
“Our institution has no link to the event which occurred in the club Dial in the Venezuela Avenue, yesterday Sunday,” the National Police said in a statement.
Beloved in Boston
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.
Why Ortiz is beloved beyond baseball
In 2004, he helped the Red Sox to their first championship since 1918, ending the “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 f***ing city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong,” he said.
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.
Red Sox honor Ortiz at Fenway Park
The Red Sox and other professional athletes sent Ortiz, a married father of three, prayers and wishes for a speedy recovery as news of the shooting surfaced.
“The events of last night shook our Red Sox family to its core,” said Sam Kennedy, the Red Sox president and CEO. “David Ortiz is one of the most celebrated and beloved members of the Red Sox family. On behalf of our entire organization — our thoughts and prayers are with David.”
The team held a “moment of reflection, thought and prayer” for Ortiz at Fenway Park before the team’s game Monday against the Texas Rangers.
Patrick Oppmann reported from Santo Domingo. CNN’s Jill Martin, Tatiana Arias, Maria Ramirez Uribe, Anyi Lizardo, Melissa Alonso, Kay Guerrero and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.