David Ortiz, the beloved MLB player and Red Sox legend, was shot at a Dominican Republic bar as part of a plot that included a nearly $8,000 bounty, two cars, a motorcycle and at least a half-dozen men, police revealed Wednesday.
While the motive behind the attempted murder remains a mystery, investigators now believe the conspirators met earlier that night regarding a $7,800 bounty that was placed on the former Boston Red Sox slugger's head.
The brazen ambush Sunday night at a Santo Domingo bar left Ortiz, 43, and two others wounded.
Ortiz, affectionately known as Big Papi, was shot inside the Dial Lounge and Bar. Witnesses captured at least one man, beat him and waited until police arrived to scoop him up to jail. Two other suspects were arrested Tuesday, police said.
One was arrested in Santiago, about 100 miles north of Santo Domingo. Another suspect was arrested in Mao, 133 miles away from the shooting.
Police believe the attack on Ortiz involved several people who arrived in two cars and a motorcycle and were seen by witnesses before the shooting at the bar was carried out.
Prosecutors said security footage showed two men on a motorcycle talking with other people in a gray Hyundai Accent and in another Hyundai in a nearby street prior to the attack. One of the suspects, identified as Oliver Moises Mirabal Acosta, was seen driving the Accent before mounting a motorcycle driven by another man, identified as 25-year-old Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, prosecutors said.
“In one of the videos it was possible to observe both the accused and the shooter planning the commission of the incident,” prosecutors said.
Witnesses saw a man jump off the motorcycle and walk up to Ortiz. The man fired a gun “without saying a word,” the Boston Globe reported, citing court documents. The shooter tried to get back on the bike but fled when people closed in. The shooter kept running with the gun in his hand.
Officials said the gun, a Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol, was handed to Acosta, then to another suspect, identified as Porfirio Allende Dechamps Vasquez, who buried it in the garden of his home. Officials said the gun was recovered.
Rolfy Ferrera Cruz, who was identified as the alleged gunman, Joel Rodriguez Cruz, Reynaldo Rodriguez Valenzuela, Acosta, Vasquez and Garcia were all arrested in connection with the Ortiz shooting. Garcia was charged Tuesday with being an accomplice to the murder.
Cruz is also wanted for a string of robberies in Clifton, New Jersey, the Daily Voice reported. He was reportedly part of a group accused in multiple robberies in the area in January 2018.
Acosta was among several men accused of participating in the execution of four people in January 2013 in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of Las Palmas de Herrera, the Boston Globe reported, citing local media. The killings were linked to a drug trafficking gang, according to local reports.
Prosecutors said four suspects were still at large, including Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase and a woman known as The Venezuelan or Red, as well as two other men. Police urged Clase to turn himself in.
“We’ll get to the bottom of all the details of this crime, and all those involved will have to face the weight of the law,” prosecutors said at a news conference, according to The New York Times.
Ortiz was flown back to Boston and was recovering from the injuries. He was able to sit up and take some steps as he recuperates in Massachusetts General Hospital’s intensive care unit, his wife, Tiffany, said in a statement Wednesday.
“His condition is guarded, and he will remain in the ICU for the coming days, but he is making good progress toward recovery,” she said.
Ortiz, who is a national hero in the Dominican Republic and became a Boston sports icon after his speech at Fenway Park days after the Boston Marathon Bombing, had previously called on the Dominican Republic’s police chief to clamp down on crime in a country still plagued by violence, drug trafficking and money laundering.
“I like to go to my country, and I know that people love you and take care of you,” he told an ESPN reporter in 2015. “But [the street hustlers] are doing their thing, and they are not in their right mind, no matter who is who, and I do not want to walk with an AK-47 over a car there, I do not want to go full of guns there because I’m not a gunslinger, and I’m not a problem of any kind.”
Ortiz hoped that the country’s head of police would take more steps to increase security.
“We cannot live in that anxiety that every time you go out of your house, a [thug] comes and takes away what you have on you,” he added. “Many people are losing their lives. Our country is a diamond that we have to take care of and defend fully and hope that things improve.”
Ortiz, who made nearly $160 million over his 20-year career, also repeatedly referred to growing up amid gang violence and drug trafficking in his 2017 autobiography "Papi: My Story," writing that "it had a devastating effect on the culture then, and it's still a huge problem now."
A friend told the Associated Press that Ortiz felt safe in his hometown whether or not he had run into unsavory figures in the Santo Domingo social scene.
“He felt protected by the people,” his friend told the Associated Press. “He is one of the most loved people in the Dominican Republic. He felt no fear despite the fact that there’s street crime here. Even the guys in the dangerous neighborhoods respected him.”
Ortiz had no problems visiting Santo Domingo in the past. He visited his father in the city up to six times a year and flew out in May to help his son enroll in one of the premier baseball academies on the island, in addition to checking in on his foundation and signing a cigar-promotion deal, his friend said.
Despite Ortiz's seeming ease at returning home, the Dominican Republic still rates in the top 10 to 15 percent of most violent countries in the world. The murder rate stands at 12.5 killings per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. State Department.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.