SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Nine suspects were indicted Friday night in connection with the shooting of retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, and could be held in prison for up to a year while the investigation continues, according to a spokesman for the prosecution.
Authorities said the nine suspects are being sent to four different prisons in order to protect the integrity of the investigation into what prosecutors allege was an orchestrated hit on Ortiz, who was shot as he sat with a friend at a Santo Domingo bar Sunday night.
After the indictment proceedings, chief prosecutor Milciades Guzman, who announced the judge’s decision, said the ruling “feels correct.”
Additionally, Jose Martinez, a lawyer for Jhoel Lopez, a Dominican variety show producer who was injured in the attack that left Ortiz wounded, said a 10th person turned himself in Friday. Authorities have two days to bring him before the court, he said.
Earlier Friday, the gunman accused of shooting Ortiz reportedly claimed from jail that Ortiz wasn’t his intended target, while relatives of some of the suspects insisted their family members were not involved or were merely bit players in the murder plot.
In a video clip posted by the Dominican news outlet Diario Libre, the alleged gunman, Rolfi Ferreras Cruz, told reporters from behind bars that he was confused about his target because he had only been told the color of the man’s clothing.
“It wasn’t David,” he said, according to the video.
Secreto, a hip-hop artist who was with Ortiz when he was shot, wrote on Instagram that he initially thought he was the target, even though he has a much more slender build compared with the brawny Ortiz.
“I left the place running; I thought that the shot was for me,” Secreto wrote Thursday in Spanish.
Erick Montilla, the spokesman for the Dominican prosecutor, rejected Cruz’s statement that he was not aiming for Ortiz.
“They will say whatever they want,” Montilla said. “What is credible is this investigation and what the prosecutor’s office finds out through interrogation.”
Dominican authorities have not said who ordered the attack on Ortiz or what the motive might have been. They have said only that the alleged hit men were paid about $7,800 to murder one of the country’s most revered figures.
The chaotic and sprawling investigation has implicated more than 12 suspects so far, including at least two men with criminal histories
in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Prosecutors said in a Friday statement that they expect to be able to offer a full narrative of what happened, the masterminds behind the shooting, and details about the motive next week.
Ortiz, 43, who was shot once in the back, remained in intensive care at Massachusetts General Hospital on Friday, recuperating from injuries to his intestines and liver. A friend who talked to him on Friday said he is still in some pain, but had soup and has been watching Sox games on TV.
Two of the surgeons who initially treated Ortiz at a Santo Domingo hospital told The Washington Post that he was pleading “please don’t let me die” and was rapidly losing blood from the bullet that pierced his abdomen and exited near his navel.
His stomach was full of blood, one of the surgeons said.
“The injuries he had were lethal, even separately, if they wouldn’t have been taken care of right away, especially the one on the liver,” Jose Smester, the first surgeon who attended to Ortiz, told the Post. “But in that moment, you don’t think about death, you think about what you have to do.”
The surgeons said they worked for five hours frepairing Ortiz’s intestines and liver. His gallbladder was also removed.
“His life should not change,” Jose Abel Gonzalez, who led the surgical team, told the Post. “He should completely recover. He will have big injuries and might feel a little pain but can have a normal life.”
Meanwhile, an attorney for one of the suspects criticized the judge’s decision to hold the suspects for up to a year.
Normally, they would have been held for three months, but the judge determined that the case was especially complex.
Bella Brea, a lawyer representing Carlos Rafael Alvarez, who is one of the men indicted Friday, said in a statement, “I feel defrauded by my own country’s justice system. Every day it becomes clearer that anybody can be sent to prison without there being any kind of evidence against them.”
The relatives of some of the suspects expressed shock that their family members had been linked to the shooting.
“These are the little guys, if they did it,” said Cruz’s father, Felicito Rodriguez Disla. “There has to be a strong person behind this, and that’s the person they need to find.”
Disla said his son, a married father of six, has been a good person, except for occasional acts of rebellion. He also said he believes his son was beaten by police.
“The way the cops investigate is by beating people up,” he said. “Some people can’t take it, they give up wrong information. . . . I can’t confirm that they hit him, I haven’t seen him, but that’s how it works here.”
Nidean Mirabal, the father of another suspect, said he was distraught that Ortiz had been attacked.
“This has broken our souls,” Mirabal said. “[Ortiz] is legendary. He’s a good man. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried over this.”
His son, Oliver Moises Mirabal Acosta, has been accused of riding in one of the cars that carried the suspects to the shooting and then taking the gun afterward and handing it to another man, who buried it on his property.
Mirabal said his son has two children and overcame a troubled past.
Acosta was one of several men accused of participating in the execution of at least four people in 2013, according to the newspaper Listin Diario. Those killings were linked, the paper said, to a drug trafficking gang. Acosta was sentenced to five years in prison.
“He’s calmed down,” Mirabal said. “He has a job, a car, a good home. I’m just shocked.”
As the investigation continues to dominate news on the island, many residents say they remain stunned that anyone would try to harm Ortiz.
Rafael Perez, a community leader in the Herrera neighborhood of Santo Domingo, said that “as a society, we feel embarrassed to see our youths involved in this situation.”
Perez said Ortiz is beloved throughout the Dominican Republic for his standout baseball career.
“He’s part of our national pride,” he said, noting that Dominicans celebrate their own who excel on the world stage, citing former ballplayer Sammy Sosa and hip-hop artist Cardi B as examples. “We love our people, we celebrate our people, that’s why we’re so shocked by the David Ortiz shooting.”