scorecardresearch Skip to main content

David Ortiz hires former BPD head to look into his shooting

The Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where David Ortiz was shot June 9.Orlando Barria for The Boston Globe

His traumatic wounds are slowly healing, but David Ortiz remains so puzzled about why a stranger shot him in the back nearly three months ago that he has hired former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis to dispatch a team of private investigators to scour his native Dominican Republic for answers.

“He’s damn interested in finding out what really happened,’’ Ortiz’s spokesman Joe Baerlein said about the ex-Sox player.

Sharing Ortiz’s first public comments on the June 9 attack, Baerlein told the Globe that he has not spoken to Dominican law enforcement since an initial bedside interview after his emergency surgery at a Santo Domingo hospital.


Ortiz was flown to Boston less than 24 hours after the shooting, remained hospitalized for some six weeks, and hasn’t been approached by US law enforcement either, Baerlein said.

His health has steadily improved and he aims to return to his job as a television analyst when the Major League Baseball playoffs begin in October. On Sunday, there was more evidence of his recovery: He posted a photograph of himself dropping off his daughter at college.

The near death of the beloved former ballplayer made international headlines, and the subsequent investigation has sparked rampant skepticism in a country with a strong distrust of law enforcement.

If someone wanted to harm Ortiz, the retired slugger has no clue why, according to Baerlein. He quoted Ortiz, a national icon in the Dominican Republic known for his All-Star swing and charitable giving, as saying, “I have no enemies on that island.’’

Ortiz’s search for more information indicates that he, like many others, has yet to accept the findings and official accounts released by Dominican law enforcement.

His life was forever altered at about 9:20 on a Sunday night, when a gunman rushed up behind him as he was chatting with friends at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo. The gunman, just a few feet away, fired a single bullet into Ortiz’s back.


Within 72 hours, Dominican authorities announced that Ortiz had been targeted by a hit squad for an unspecified reason, saying there was a $7,800 bounty for his death. Some 18 days later, the national police drastically revised the account, alleging that the hit man mistook Ortiz for the intended target, a friend with whom Ortiz was socializing, but who looks almost nothing like Ortiz.

Neither police account has satisfied Ortiz. The slugger doesn’t necessarily dispute the mistaken identity theory, Baerlein said, but he has yet to be fully persuaded with the explanation proffered by police. And while he has not alleged any wrongdoing in the handling of the case, he has previously made no secret of the breadth of corruption in the Dominican Republic.

“David has been carefully monitoring the government and police investigation,’’ Baerlein said. “He had no basis for a long time to challenge their theory of mistaken identity. However, as new facts continue to come up, it lends some optimism that there may be some other conclusions that are drawn before it’s over about why David was shot.’’

Baerlein pointed to two recent developments: the government’s reconsideration of the jailing of one of the 14 men arrested in the investigation, and a raid last week on an allegedly massive drug trafficking and money laundering cartel based in Santo Domingo.


“We’re open to these new facts perhaps shedding more light on what exactly the motive was for people shooting David,’’ Baerlein said. “Maybe something will turn up. Stay tuned.’’

Ortiz initially hired Davis, whose tenure as police commissioner spanned the Boston Marathon bombings, to provide security protection after he was flown to Boston and admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital. Since then, Ortiz had Davis mobilize a team of American and Dominican investigators. Their charge: to monitor developments, including a review of law enforcement activities, on the ground in his native country, Baerlein said.

The only contact Ortiz has had with Dominican officials came via calls from President Danilo Medina and Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez Sánchez in which they inquired about his health, but nothing more, Baerlein said.

Ortiz authorized Baerlein to speak with the Globe after reporters pressed him about the case. In repeated trips to the Dominican Republic, Globe reporters found widespread disbelief about the police investigation, especially the mistaken identity theory.

“A 3-year-old knows who David Ortiz is,” said Carlos Manuel Vicentes, 41, a cashier at a general store near the crime scene. “That wasn’t any confusion,” Vicentes said.

Dominican tabloids and news shows have suggested motives more in sync with jealousy and romantic rifts than mistaken identity.

Baerlein said Ortiz flatly denies the tabloid insinuations.

Dominican National Police Colonel Frank Felix Duran Mejia said investigators looked into many other angles but found them meritless.

“There was a fight between two women in the clinic (the night Ortiz was shot), and from there people started to speculate and speculate and speculate and started to create a story that this was a fight over women,” Duran told the Globe.


“Evidently, David was in, how do you Americans say, ‘wrong place, wrong time,’ and confused for someone else,” Duran said in an interview at national police headquarters. “There is no doubt. . . . But, lamentably, people want to hear something else.”

Duran, the public face of the Dominican National Police, has been simultaneously employed for more than 10 years as a Major League Baseball resident security agent, the Globe reported Sunday.

He steadfastly defended the integrity of the department’s Ortiz inquiry, saying he regularly briefed the MLB commissioner’s office but there was no interference whatsoever.

Duran said US law enforcement has played only a minimal role in the investigation, assisting on issues involving suspects with ties to crimes in America.

“We were able to investigate the case with our resources,” he said. “This case was solved by us, the National Police, with the public ministry.”

Duran said the public has seen only “15 to 20 percent’’ of the evidence because of the Dominican judicial process. Fourteen suspects have been arrested and jailed for up to a year while the government prepares cases against them. Another suspect, Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase, known as “The Surgeon,” is at large.

Still, scant details have emerged from the court system. Police said the mastermind behind the shooting plot, Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, wanted to kill his own cousin, not Ortiz, because his cousin, Sixto David Fernández, had reported him to police roughly a decade ago.


If so, many skeptics say, the alleged hit man failed miserably in identifying his target. Ortiz is 6-foot-4 and weighed about 245 pounds. He has a dark complexion, while the light-skinned Fernandez is thin and about 5-foot-6.

They look as different as ”a potato and a plantain,’’ said a worker at Fernandez’s auto shop who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Vasquez, before his June 28 arrest, released a video denying any involvement and saying he feared for his life. He suggested Fernández was closely tied to a reputed criminal kingpin known as “The Abuser.”

The so-called “Abuser,’’ Cesar Emilio Peralta, was at the center of last week’s raid by US and Dominican law enforcement on an alleged drug trafficking and money laundering ring, according to the US Treasury Department.

Some 18 suspects, including former major league players Octavio Dotel and Luis Castillo, were arrested or cited in the sweep. Peralta, who allegedly operated with apparent impunity for years in the Dominican Republic, remains a fugitive. Peralta has not responded to Globe inquiries over the last two months.

Ortiz once owned an apartment in the same luxury tower in Santo Domingo as Peralta. Baerlein said Ortiz bought his unit before the tower was built and chose to sell it about five years ago because Peralta bought the penthouse.

When they crossed paths, Ortiz and Peralta acknowledged each other, Baerlein said, but Ortiz kept his distance, recognizing the danger of getting too close.

“No one in the Dominican Republic ever wanted to be an enemy of Peralta because everybody knew he was part of this [alleged] drug cartel,’’ Baerlein said on behalf of his client.

Dominican authorities have presented no evidence linking Peralta or his case to the Ortiz shooting.

Two former MLB security specialists — security supervisor Thomas Reilly and investigator Eddie Dominguez — told the Globe they were concerned before the shooting that Ortiz was putting himself at risk by associating with “shady characters’’ and living a flashy lifestyle, particularly in Santo Domingo.

“I saw him show up at restaurants in a shiny red Ferrari with a personalized tag and his number [34] spinning on the wheels,’’ Reilly said. “That kind of stuff is a magnet for trouble.’’

Baerlein indicated the shooting was a wake-up call for Ortiz.

“You would have to be not normal to say your actions and behavior aren’t going to change somewhat after this,’’ he said.

Ortiz has battled through an arduous recovery from three surgeries to repair damage he suffered to his liver, intestines, and gall bladder, which was removed. Baerlein said Ortiz has been told his survival has been all but miraculous.

“He’s a lucky guy, and he knows it,’’ Baerlein said.

In Santo Domingo, Ortiz’s cousin, Eloy Ortiz, showed Globe reporters a picture of Ortiz from early August. His face and upper torso appeared back to normal, though his midsection looked considerably smaller.

Eloy Ortiz said the slugger was down about 20 pounds from his regular weight. When Eloy Ortiz spoke to David that day, he said, his cousin told him he had eaten eggs and mangu — mashed green plantains — for breakfast.

Eloy Ortiz said his cousin has been flooded with calls and correspondence from well-wishers, including visits from current and former major league stars such as Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Edwin Encarnacion.

Eloy Ortiz said Ortiz and Ramirez, who in their Red Sox heyday formed one of the most powerful 1-2 punches in baseball history, prayed together.

“He’s happy because God gave him the opportunity to stay here,’’ Eloy Ortiz said of his famous cousin. “I think he’s a new man now.’’

On Sunday afternoon, Ortiz posted the first picture of himself on Instagram since being shot. Dressed in all black, he appeared amid boxes with his 18-year-old daughter, Alex, who, according to her Instagram profile, is a student at the Berklee College of Music.

Ortiz wrote a caption about the life experience of dropping her off at college and implored her, “to be great you have to bring the best out of you everyday.”

Bob Hohler can be reached at Aimee Ortiz can be reached at