• It’s far too early to draw definitive conclusions about why David Ortiz was shot. Still, early signs suggest that the assailant’s goal was more akin to an attempted murder than to a robbery.
By Michael McCann
June 10, 2019

Retired Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was shot Sunday night while seated in Dial Discotheque, a popular night club in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Surveillance video from the night club shows the assailant, who has been identified as Eddy Feliz Garcia, walk up to Ortiz from behind while the 43-year-old former World Series MVP was in the middle of a conversation with another man. Standing within close range of Ortiz, Garcia then raised his weapon and, with both hands on his gun, shot Ortiz in the back.

Garcia immediately sprinted to his right. His attempt to escape didn’t succeed. He was detained by a witness, who apparently beat him up. Indeed, a video shows his face severely beaten. Police later arrested Garcia, whose previous criminal record reportedly includes drug trafficking charges. Several other persons have also been questioned by law enforcement.

After being shot, Ortiz, who stands 6’3” and weighs 230, is shown collapsing and falling to his left. “Big Papi,” as he is affectionately known in Boston, then tumbles into adjacent seats. Meanwhile, there is chaos around Ortiz, as bystanders look to flee after seeing and/or hearing a gun fired by a man.

According to journalist Dionisio Soldevila, the bullet exited Ortiz’s body from his abdomen. Media reports indicate that Ortiz had surgery at a nearby hospital and is in stable condition. ESPN’s Enrique Rojas tweets that Ortiz’s injuries included damage to his liver. Those injuries necessitated surgical removal of Ortiz’s gallbladder as well as removal of parts of his intestines and colon. Ortiz is currently resting after a successful surgery, his father Leo Ortiz told Soldevila, per ESPN's Marly Rivera, and he is expected to make a full recovery. On Monday, the Red Sox made plans to fly Ortiz to Boston where he would be taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital. Mass General, as it is often called, is considered one of the world’s best hospitals.

Although the incident was initially described as a robbery, the surveillance video does not depict a robbery. Robbery is a crime that involves the use of force, or the threatened use of force, to dispossess an item of value from another person. For instance, pressing a gun into someone’s back and demanding that he or she hand over their wallet, jewelry, phone or car keys etc. would be robbery.

Here, Garcia didn’t seem to communicate with Ortiz, let alone demand that Ortiz hand over anything. The video also doesn’t show Ortiz speaking with Garcia or even seeming to know that a man was standing behind him with a gun.

Also, after Garcia shot Ortiz, Garcia didn’t take anything from Ortiz. Just the opposite, he started to sprint to his right in apparent hopes of escaping.

Garcia might have also known that by shooting Ortiz—one of the Dominican Republic’s most beloved persons—in a crowded bar, he probably would not be able to escape. Likewise, unless he was incredibly naïve, he likely realized that if he was detained by witnesses, he would be roughed up, if not worse. Garcia’s apparent intentions, therefore, seemed focused on shooting Ortiz in an apparent assassination attempt. 

It’s far too early to draw definitive conclusions about the incident. Several seconds of a surveillance video only tell part of the story. We don’t know whether Ortiz and Garcia interacted prior to the shooting or if they knew each other. We also don’t know whether there may have been other people involved, such as a driver or co-conspirators.

Still, early signs suggest Garcia's goal was more akin to an attempted murder than to a robbery. If the shooter merely wanted to take an item from Ortiz’s possession, it’s hard to believe he would walk up from behind Ortiz in a crowded bar, not make any attempt to interact with Ortiz and then shoot him in the back and run off without taking anything from him. Robbery doesn’t make any sense in that context.

Given that Garcia—whom CNN describes as a motorcyclist—is in custody, expect law enforcement to press him to reconstruct the sequence of events. Officers will demand that Garcia explain his intentions and plan, including confirmation that the highly-recognizable Ortiz was his target. Garcia will also be asked to acknowledge if there were co-conspirators. Along those lines, officers will want to know who ordered the hit and why. Similarly, they will demand that Garcia divulge how he became aware Ortiz would be at the Dial Discotheque at the time of the shooting.

If Garcia had a phone on him, it is certainly being examined by forensics. And if he has a home address or a place of business, expect officers to retrieve evidence from those locations. These types of steps would likely occur for any shooting in the Dominican Republic. The fact that Ortiz is a national hero there (not to mention in New England and elsewhere in the U.S.) makes it even more likely law enforcement will spare no expense to unravel what happened.

SI will keep you posted on the latest developments.

Michael McCann is SI’s Legal Analyst. He is also an attorney and Associate Dean of UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law.

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