SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Days before Dominican officials identified Sixto David Fernández as the intended target of the June 9 shooting that wounded David Ortiz, the friend of the retired Red Sox legend was aware of rumors linking him to the attack and publicly denied them.
Fernández, who was with Ortiz during the shooting here at the Dial Bar and Lounge, told Zol 106.5 FM on June 14 that he has “no enemies,” not even a cat. He told the station he was blindsided by the notion that hired assassins would target him.
“I’m just a businessman,” Fernández said. “I have a garage shop.”
By Wednesday evening, he also had a reluctant role in a drama that has transfixed this Caribbean nation and the broader sports world, when authorities said his fugitive cousin, Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, 43, had hired a hit squad to take him out.
Vasquez wanted Fernández dead, authorities said Wednesday, because he believed his cousin had reported him to the police in 2011, leading to his arrest.
Fernández made no mention of his cousin during the radio interview last Friday but did tell the station that he was eager to speak with law enforcement.
“I don’t have a single enemy,” he said. “I don’t know where these rumors came from.”
The authorities’ announcement Wednesday that the gunman had mistakenly shot Ortiz was met with skepticism by some Dominicans and close observers of the case, who noted that Fernández bears little resemblance to Ortiz, one of the most recognizable people in the country.
Fernández, in his radio interview last week, foreshadowed that commentary, telling the station, “Logic exists. David and I are two very different people physically.” Fernández couldn’t be reached for further comment Thursday; his garage was closed.
Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back at close range as he sat with Fernández and other friends on the patio of the crowded night spot. He continues to recuperate from his injuries at Mass. General.
On Wednesday night, Dominican Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez’s office sent a letter to a CNN reporter that sought to clarify discrepancies between court documents and Wednesday’s jarring announcement that Fernández, not Ortiz, was the target of the murder-for-hire plot.
The legal filings had said that Ortiz was “tracked” to the Dial on the night of the shooting, but in the letter to CNN, which the reporter posted to Twitter, said the documents were submitted before evidence emerged about Fernandez.
“Up until that moment, the theory of the case proposed that the target was the victim, David Ortiz,” prosecutors wrote.
The letter also addressed the prior law enforcement assertion that Ortiz and his friend, Jhoel López, were tracked to the bar on the night of the attack.
“This can have many interpretations,” prosecutors wrote, adding that they meant to suggest that the bar itself was being monitored, not that Ortiz was followed there.
Eleven suspects are currently in custody for their alleged roles in the shooting, including the suspected shooter, Rolfi Ferreras Cruz, 25, who has reportedly said from jail that Ortiz wasn’t his intended target.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in New Jersey announced that Cruz had been indicted in that state on drug trafficking charges as well as one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime, stemming from a Jan. 22 incident in Passaic County, N.J.
Cruz allegedly conspired “to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin,” the indictment says, as well as “a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine.”
In addition, the filing says, Cruz was packing “a loaded firearm, namely, a .40-caliber Glock 23 handgun . . . with an extended magazine” in furtherance of his alleged drug crimes.
Further information on that case wasn’t immediately available.
Cruz also faces state charges in Clifton, N.J., for his alleged role in two armed robberies there in December 2017.
Separately, Vasquez, the fugitive accused of ordering the shooting that wounded Ortiz, faces federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges in Texas’s southern district.
He’s identified in the indictment, initially filed in November 2018 and unsealed in March, as Victor Hugo Gomez, and he’s one of 56 suspects facing charges linked to a sprawling drug ring based in the Lone Star State.
Prosecutors said they investigated the ring for three and a half years before moving in on the group in November. The ring, comprised of seven separate “distribution cells,” moved cocaine and heroin from Colombia and Mexico through Houston en route to Atlanta, Buffalo, New York City, Miami, New Orleans, and Norfolk, Va., prosecutors said. The feds said in March that about $3.1 million in illicit funds had been seized.
Vasquez faces four separate counts of possession with intent to distribute 20 kilograms of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute 10 kilograms of cocaine, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1 kilogram of heroin, and conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally conduct financial transactions in and affecting interstate and foreign commerce that involved proceeds from a specified unlawful activity, records show.
Few details of Vasquez’s alleged conduct are contained in the indictment, beyond boilerplate language laying out the charges.
In December, federal prosecutors in Texas had requested the issuance of an arrest warrant for Vasquez and asked that he be detained “without bond,” records show. Vasquez hasn’t been apprehended.
When authorities announced in March that the indictment had been unsealed, Ryan K. Patrick, the US attorney for Texas’s southern district, said in a statement that the Justice Department “is committed to disrupting the work of international cartels and other drug trafficking organizations.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz.