Ex-slugger David Ortiz had counted on fans to protect him

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Beloved in his hometown, David Ortíz traveled the dangerous streets of Santo Domingo with little or no security, trusting in his fans to protect him.

Big Papi’s guard was down even at hotspots like the Dial Bar and Lounge, where the Dominican business and entertainment elite can cross paths with shadier figures in a country where fortunes are often made in drug smuggling and money laundering.

As the former Red Sox slugger lies in intensive care in Boston, recovering from the bullet fired into his back at the Dial on Sunday night, police are investigating what aspect of the national hero’s life made him the target of what appeared to be an assassination attempt.

Ortíz was so relaxed at the open-air hotspot Sunday that he had his back to the sidewalk as a gunman — a passenger on a motorcycle — got off the bike just before 9 p.m., approached the 43-year-old retired athlete and fired a single shot at close range before escaping.

Enraged fans captured the 25-year-old motorcyclist and beat him bloody before handing him over to police, but the gunman was still at large Tuesday.

Doctors in Santo Domingo removed Ortiz’s gallbladder and…

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