The Dominican Republic’s chief prosecutor said Boston Red Sox icon David Ortiz was not the intended target of the June 9 shooting that put his life in peril, but was merely the victim of a hit gone wrong.
Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez said in a Wednesday news conference that Sixto David Fernandez, a friend of Ortiz’s who shared a table with him that night at a bar in the capital city of Santo Domingo, was the real target.
Rodriguez added that a fugitive named Victor Hugo Gomez, whom he said is wanted by U.S. law enforcement, ordered the killing of Fernandez because of a longtime beef over supposedly providing information to the police about him.
Rodriguez said the gunman, identified by police as Rolfi Ferreira Cruz, was handed a photo of the intended victim but the lighting made it look like Fernandez was wearing white pants, as Ortiz was that night, and confused one for the other.
“Sixto David Fernandez pointed to Victor Hugo Gomez as the only person who may want to attempt to kill him, which he had already expressed through repeated threatening messages,’’ Rodriguez said.
The AG also said he interviewed Ortiz the day after the incident and the former baseball star known as “Big Papi’’ insisted he didn’t know anyone who would want to harm him, and that he had not received any threats.
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National Police Chief Ney Aldrin Bautista went on to describe an intricate plot purportedly masterminded by Gomez — believed to be a member of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel — to extract payback on Fernandez by hiring an inmate he met in a Dominican jail.
“They had a business connection that broke off at some point, and it led to a disagreement between them,” Bautista said. “When (Gomez) landed in jail, he surmised that it was because (Fernandez) snitched on him, and that’s where Victor Hugo’s ill will toward Sixto David Fernandez comes from.’’
Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back at point-blank range while sitting in the patio of the Dial Bar and Lounge. He’s perhaps the best-known Dominican on the planet, but the shooter came in from behind and might not have recognized his famous face.
Dominican police have arrested 11 persons in connection with the case, but until Wednesday they had not provided a motive for the attack. In the absence of an official version, unconfirmed stories about a liaison with the girlfriend of a drug kingpin and other speculation have filled the void.
Rodriguez, who referred to the retired slugger as “our beloved Big Papi,” made a point of portraying Ortiz as a victim of mistaken identity and any other theories about the shooting’s motive as mere speculation. He also said those who hire killers often try to throw law enforcement off track by spreading false rumors.
“This is proof. The rest is conjecture, which naturally arises in a situation this delicate and regrettable,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t want to respond before we could do the job in a serious, scientific way, and to present to you – and to the world, which has been concerned about our David Ortiz – conclusive proof that can stand in a court of law.’’
Ortiz, who became one of the most popular players in Red Sox history as he led them to three World Series championships, remains in the intensive care unit of Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. His wife, Tiffany, said Tuesday his condition has been upgraded from “guarded’’ to “good.’’
The previous day, Dominican officials identified fugitive Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota as the man they believe paid the hitmen — the shooter and the driver of a getaway motorcycle — to attack Ortiz in a case that has drawn worldwide attention.
Wednesday’s presentation to the news media included surveillance video showing a man, identified as Rodriguez Mota, who remained impassively at the bar’s patio amid the chaos of scrambling patrons, as if to ascertain the hit had been carried out correctly.
Dominican authorities maintain it was not.