Second suspect arrested; David Ortiz ‘resting comfortably’ at MGH
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A second suspect was in custody Tuesday night in the shooting ambush of David Ortiz, according to a person briefed on the investigation, as the Red Sox legend remained in intensive care at Massachusetts General Hospital where he is recovering from the gunshot wound.
The suspect, who was not publicly identified by authorities, was apprehended Tuesday evening, according to the person. Police had been looking for a man who they believed had shot Ortiz Sunday night.
The development emerged as Eddy Vladimir Féliz Garcia, who has been accused by Dominican authorities of driving the gunman on a motorcycle to the Dial Bar and Lounge, was charged at an initial court appearance Tuesday night.
His lawyer asserted his client was merely a motorcycle taxi driver who had no idea he was driving the gunman.
Earlier in the day, Tiffany Ortiz, Ortiz’s wife of 17 years, said in a statement Tuesday that her husband had a “successful second surgery’’ the night before at Massachusetts General Hospital and was “stable, awake, and resting comfortably this morning in the ICU where he is expected to remain for the next several days.”
She thanked Red Sox executives as well as hospital staff for caring for the retired slugger, who arrived at the hospital late Monday night, after undergoing surgery in the Dominican Republic to repair his small intestine, large intestine, and liver.
“Lastly, I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love that we have received during this incredibly difficult time,” Tiffany Ortiz said. “We ask for privacy as David works towards recovery.”
Leo Lopez, an Ortiz spokesman, said Ortiz, 43, marked a milestone in his recovery on Tuesday, taking his first steps at Mass. General. Lopez, a close family friend, said Ortiz is still in some pain.
Ortiz was shot once at close range in the back. When the getaway motorcycle crashed a short distance from the bar, the gunman escaped on foot, police said, but Garcia, the motorcycle driver, was beaten by an angry mob of onlookers.
Garcia was expected to face the charge of being an accomplice to attempted murder, said Erick Montilla, a spokesman for the Public Ministry of Santo Domingo Este, which is prosecuting the case.
Tuesday night, Garcia was escorted into a trailer outside a Santo Domingo courthouse by at least a dozen armed officers wearing helmets and bulletproof vests. Despite the police escort, reporters swarmed him. He was taken up the stairs to the trailer to face the judge.
Garcia’s mother waited in a chair outside the trailer, where initial appearances are held.
Earlier, Deivi Solano, Garcia’s lawyer, told the Globe his client was unaware he was driving the suspected gunman.
He said Garcia makes his living as a motorcycle taxi driver, picking up fares over the phone and on the streets. Solano said he believes that Garcia picked up a fare in “good faith,” thinking he needed a ride. Then the man fired on Ortiz.
“This boy did not do anything,” Solano said in an interview in the sweltering lobby of the four-story courthouse in East Santo Domingo. “He was totally surprised by what happened.”
Garcia was initially hospitalized but was released from medical care the morning after the shooting. “His injuries were superficial,” Montilla said.
Solano said Garcia grew up worshiping Ortiz and other Dominican Red Sox stars such as Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez. He said Garcia is 23 not 25, as police have said.
“He is David Ortiz’s number one fan,” Solano said. “Since [Ortiz] won the World Series in 2004, he has cut out articles and pictures of Ortiz and put them on his walls.”
Solano said Ortiz’s status as a Dominican national sports hero makes the case especially challenging.
“David Ortiz is the most loved player in this country,” Solano said. “People need to remember that [Garcia] is a human being.”
A 2018 State Department report criticized the Dominican legal system for human rights violations, saying that some people have been subjected to torture, roundups, lengthy pretrial detentions, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, despite constitutional protections for defendants.
García’s mother, Justina Garcia, who sat in the waiting room of the courthouse Tuesday, said she had not slept since Sunday and has not been able to speak to her son.
“Destroyed,” she said in Spanish as she wiped her face with a towel. “I feel very destroyed.”
Watching a video of her son bloodied and on the street was agonizing, she said.
“I keep thinking, how is he? Is he alone? Is he hungry?” Garcia said. “The whole world is against him.”
She called on authorities to conduct a full investigation and urged the public not to rush to judgment.
“He is innocent,” Garcia said.
Ortiz was shot at close range as he chatted at the bar with Jhoel Lopez, a Dominican variety show producer. Police have not commented on a potential motive for the attack.
Lopez was hit in the leg, apparently by the same bullet that struck Ortiz, but has said his injuries were not serious.
Ortiz was flown Monday night on a Red Sox-chartered plane to Mass. General, where he underwent exploratory surgery.
Doctors who treat abdominal wounds say such patients must be monitored closely for infections.
“Hopefully, Mr. Ortiz won’t suffer that,” said Dr. Michael P. Hirsh, a trauma surgeon at
UMass Memorial Medical Center. “He’s not out of the woods, as far as the natural history of these things, for at least another week.”
Red Sox players and fans continued their outpouring of support for Ortiz, a swaggering, larger-than-life figure who helped the team break its 86-year World Series drought in 2004 and win two more titles in 2007 and 2013.
“I don’t have enough words to describe who David, what David means to baseball,” said Martinez, a fellow Dominican and former Red Sox pitching star, wiping away tears in an interview with the MLB Network. “But I’m so disappointed to know that someone like David, who saved so many lives, can have someone after his life. And I’m sorry . . . but it hurts me. It hurts me.”
In a statement Monday night, the Dominican National Police said media reports implicating one of their officers in the shooting are “categorically” false.
Police said they were addressing the reports after the officer’s name circulated on social media.
Some Dominican leaders also expressed concern that intense media coverage of the shooting could hurt the island’s vital tourism industry.
Charles Mariotti Jr., a member of the Dominican Senate, said the safety of the entire nation “cannot be judged by isolated or chance events,” such as a high-profile shooting.
“The proper US authorities have declared that our country is safe for both American and Canadian tourists,” Marrioti said in a statement. “We’re the Caribbean leaders when it comes to welcoming both American and Canadian tourists, and will continue to be, despite what adversaries or those with a vested interest might say.”
A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the United States and Dominican Republic experienced the same rate of gun deaths in 2016, 10.6 per 100,000 residents.
Travis Andersen, Peter Abraham, and Bob Hohler of the Globe staff contributed to this report.