Almost three years after Red Sox legend David Ortiz was seriously injured when he was shot point-blank in the back in his native Dominican Republic, new information has emerged about why Ortiz was targeted on that fateful day in June 2019 while sitting with friends in a Santo Domingo bar.
A private investigation by former Boston Police Chief Ed Davis determined Ortiz was targeted by a powerful and politically-connected drug lord -- César “The Abuser” Peralta -- who felt disrespected by Ortiz, according to a Boston Globe report.
Ortiz hired Davis a few weeks after returning to Boston following his emergency surgery in Santo Domingo as he continued to question the motive behind the incident that he described as a nightmare.
At the time, Ortiz said he wanted to find out who was responsible for the attack, saying he wasn't going to just sit around if there was somebody out there who wanted to kill him.
For their part, Dominican authorities offered several motives before finally blaming the shooting on a case of mistaken identity. The Dominican Republic's attorney general and national police director have said the attempted murder was ordered by Victor Hugo Gomez, an associate of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel. They said Gomez had hired a gang of killers to eliminate his cousin, whom Gomez suspected of turning him in to drug investigators in 2011.
The cousin, Sixto David Fernández, was seated with Ortiz on the night of June 9, when the gunman approached and fired a single shot at Ortiz, who was drinking with several of his friends on an outdoor patio at the Dial Bar and Lounge in eastern Santo Domingo.
Dominican authorities said the hit men confused Ortiz with Fernández -- but that has been widely questioned given the two look nothing alike and that Ortiz is one of the most popular Dominican ballplayers ever.
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And Davis says there was no mistaken identity; he alleges the gunman was trying to shoot both Ortiz and Fernández.
As part of his investigation, Davis commissioned a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that conducts forensic video analysis to study surveillance footage from the bar. According to Davis, a frame-by-frame analysis revealed that the gunman first shot Ortiz and then tried to shoot Fernández, as well, but the gun misfired.
Davis spent six months conducting his own private investigation after Ortiz hired him, and the former top Boston cop disclosed his findings for the first time to the Globe on Saturday, claiming it was Peralta who put the bounty on Ortiz's head after the pair crossed paths multiple times.
Davis alleges that Peralta’s motive for the Ortiz shooting likely was a buildup of perceived slights and jealousies, the Globe reported. Davis found no evidence that Ortiz engaged in any type of business with Peralta.
Peralta is being held in held without bail in Puerto Rico on unrelated charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin. The U.S. Treasury designated Peralta a drug kingpin in 2019 and he was extradited to the U.S. territory in December.
Ortiz's spokesperson, Joe Baerlein, told the Globe that Davis' findings were withheld for Ortiz's safety until Peralta was in U.S. custody. Peralta has not been charged in relation to Ortiz's shooting.
Peralta's lawyer, Joaquin Perez, said Peralta had nothing to do with the attempt on Ortiz's life.
"As bad as Cesar Peralta is, it's not even close to being in the ballpark to say he had something to do with this,'' Perez said.
While Perez described Ortiz and Peralta as "close friends,'' Ortiz told The Globe he knew Peralta only casually.
Thirteen people have been charged in relation to Ortiz's shooting and are awaiting trial in the Dominican Republic.
Ortiz has said he's never been able to make sense of the multiple theories that emerged in the aftermath of his shooting, and he's dismissed all the tabloid rumors.
In a phone call from the Dominican Republic, Ortiz told the Globe he was “sad, confused, angry, all kinds of emotions” when he received the news from Davis and Ric Prado, a former high-ranking CIA official who participated in the inquiry. The findings directly contradict what Dominican authorities have said.
Dominican authorities did not cooperate with the private investigation.
Ortiz's spokesperson said in an emailed statement to NBC10 Boston Saturday night that they have no further comment on the matter, outside the Globe's report.
“We are not providing any further comment at this time as any additional information and answers on the motive for the shooting of David Ortiz will come from the legal system in the Dominican Republic and the US court systems," Baerlein said. "People should not forget that David Ortiz is the victim here.”
Ortiz, who travels with security now, has said the shooting forever changed his life, saying he almost died following the brazen attack on his life.
Ortiz spent months recovering following the incident and initially underwent three surgeries on the long, slow road to recovery. He had his gallbladder and part of his intestine removed in the Dominican Republic immediately following the shooting. He was then flown back to Boston where he underwent two more surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital -- one to assess the internal damage and the quality of his first surgery in the DR, and a second one after he contracted a life-threatening bacterial infection.
He had a fourth surgery last year related to the shooting, according to the Globe, and says the attack has caused him immeasurable physical and emotional trauma.
The all-time Red Sox great remains a beloved figure in Boston and beyond. He retired in 2017 after leading the team to three World Series championships and his No. 34 was retired shortly after. The 10-time All-Star also has a bridge and a stretch of road outside Fenway Park named after him.
In January, the 46-year-old was announced as the lone member of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame class. Ortiz appeared on 77.9 percent of ballots to earn enshrinement into Cooperstown.