Authorities in the Dominican Republic stunned the Caribbean nation Wednesday when they said David Ortiz wasn’t the intended target of a shooting earlier this month in Santo Domingo that severely wounded the retired Red Sox legend.
The announcement was a jarring reversal from a prior press conference on June 12, when officials said the perpetrators were hired to kill Ortiz for roughly $7,800. (That figure changed on June 30, when authorities said the alleged price for the shooting was $30,000.) Here are the key discrepancies between law enforcement accounts offered in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and again on Wednesday.
1] The target — During the June 12 presser, Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, director of the Dominican National Police, and Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez said in no uncertain terms that the assailants were recruited to kill Ortiz, 43, for roughly $7,800. Ortiz was shot once in the back at close range at the Dial Bar and Lounge and continues to recover at Mass. General.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez identified a different target of the ambush: Sixto David Fernández, a friend of Ortiz who was with him at the Dial.
2] The ringleader, and the motive — On June 12, officials said they didn’t know who ordered the hit on Ortiz, one of the country’s most revered sports heroes, or why. In the days that followed, rumors proliferated on social media and in tabloid newspapers about a drug trafficker who wanted Ortiz dead over a personal dispute [a lawyer for Ortiz, a married father of three, has described his client as an innocent victim in the attack who hadn’t transgressed his own family values.].
On Wednesday, officials named the man who allegedly ordered the hit not on Ortiz, but on Fernández: the fugitive Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, 43, a cousin of Fernández who’s also listed as Victor Hugo Gomez.
And, authorities said, Vasquez had a compelling motive to make an attempt on his cousin’s life. Vasquez believed Fernández gave him up to law enforcement when Vasquez was arrested in 2011, officials said.
In addition, Vasquez previously did prison time with one of the suspects now charged in the Ortiz shooting. Plus Vasquez was among dozens charged earlier this year with drug-trafficking-related counts that arose from a federal probe in the United States dubbed “Operation Wrecking Ball,” according to authorities.
Rodríguez said Wednesday that Fernández was “the only one who would have something against [Vasquez] that would bring about this type of hit.”
Vasquez is currently a fugitive from US authorities, officials said Wednesday. His whereabouts are unknown.
3] Details on a key suspect — Court records obtained earlier this week said another fugitive, Alberto Miguel Rodríguez Mota, 35, the man who previously did time with Gomez, is the suspect who allegedly arranged to pay the assailants in the Ortiz shooting.
The records said Mota and another suspect, Gabriel Alexander Perez Vizcaino, 24, convened the hit squad after a third man, Jose Eduardo Ciprian, who at the time of the attack was in prison, put Vizcaino in touch with Mota.
At some point, Ciprian sent Mota a photo of the target, according to the documents, which didn’t say whose picture it was. On the day of the shooting, Vizcaino received a gold iPhone that showed “the person they were going to liquidate,” he confessed last week, according to the filings.
On Wednesday, when authorities identified Fernández as the intended target, they provided new information about Mota’s activities before the shooting.
Rodriguez said Mota was at the Dial a few hours before the attack, waiting for Fernández.
Video taken at the club shows that in the wake of the shooting, Mota was the only person who does not appear to act surprised, according to authorities. As patrons scattered in panic moments after the shooting, Mota “stayed in the same spot, observing what just happened,” said Bautista, the police director.
“The only person who remained was the man who was at the bar since 5:40,” Bautista said. “After everything, he left.” Ney said Mota “drank some of his beer and then placed it down, but he stays there,” adding that Mota “stays there, in plain sight.”
4] Denials of the suspected gunman — Rodriguez on Wednesday reiterated prior law enforcement claims that the alleged triggerman, Rolfi Ferreras Cruz, 25, has admitted to firing the shot that injured Ortiz.
Ferreras Cruz has reportedly claimed from jail that Ortiz wasn’t his target, saying he was confused because he had only been told the color of the intended victim’s clothing. “It wasn’t David,” Cruz said, according to a video posted online by the newspaper Diario Libre.
Erick Montilla, a spokesman for prosecutors, last week voiced skepticism of that assertion by Cruz. On Friday, CNN quoted Montilla as saying that Cruz was fabricating a story to avoid being “lynched” in jail.
“He can say whatever he wants in an interview,” Montilla said, according to CNN. “What matters is the investigation and what he said in the interrogation. ... If you observe the video, he goes directly to where the victim is and shoots without hesitation.”