Officials in the Dominican Republic on Friday arrested the alleged mastermind in the nightclub shooting of retired Red Sox star David Ortiz, as well as another suspect in the botched plot.
Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, who authorities say paid associates to kill his own cousin, was arrested in the capital of Santo Domingo, according to national police. He also was being sought by US authorities for his alleged role in a drug-trafficking ring in Texas.
Shortly before his arrest, Gomez Vasquez released a video statement denying that he was involved in the June 9 attack. “I don’t harm people. I’ve never harmed anyone,” he said in the video.
Dominican Armed Forces also arrested on Friday Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota, an alleged accomplice who arrived at the Santo Domingo nightclub hours before the shooting and stalked the supposed target, an area mechanic and friend of Ortiz.
Authorities said Rodriguez Mota was arrested off the coast of the Dominican province of Samaná as he attempted to flee in a boat to Puerto Rico.
The two suspects are slated to appear before a judge within 48 hours. Police previously arrested 11 people in the shooting and say one suspect is at large: Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase.
Police have said Gomez Vasquez sought to kill his cousin, Sixto David Fernández, because Fernández had reported him to police years ago, leading to his arrest in 2011.
On the night of June 9, Fernández had been sitting across from Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge, when a gunman got off a motorcycle and shot Ortiz in the back at close range.
Fernández has told Dominican media that he was friends with Ortiz, though Ortiz’s family has said nothing of their relationship. The men appear in photos online together, and in one video, Ortiz offers Fernández birthday wishes.
Leo Lopez, a spokesman for the Ortiz family, declined to comment Friday following news of the latest arrests.
Ortiz, 43, was moved out of the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital a week ago. He suffered damage to his organs, including his small intestine, large intestine, and liver, and has undergone multiple surgeries.
He has not spoken to the media since the shooting, though his wife has issued several statements updating his condition and thanking well-wishers.
The attorney general of the Dominican Republic, Jean Alain Rodriguez, said the hit men who shot Ortiz were confused by a dimly lit photo taken by Rodriguez Mota before the shooting.
Some of the country’s nearly 11 million residents have expressed skepticism of the scenario outlined by prosecutors, noting that it would be hard to mistake Ortiz for Fernández — the former Red Sox player is much larger and has darker skin.
Ortiz grew up in Santo Domingo and is revered throughout the Dominican Republic for his standout baseball career and charity.
The alleged mastermind of the plot, Gomez Vasquez, disavowed any involvement in the seven-minute video clip, which was obtained by the Globe and shared widely in Dominican media.
“I’m making this video because I fear for my life,” Gomez Vasquez says in the video.
Gomez Vasquez acknowledged his pending criminal charges, but said he has “nothing to do with any attempted homicide against Sixto David Fernández, and much less with Big Papi.”
“I want to be clear: I would never do something like that.”
Gomez Vasquez said he hadn’t surrendered to police because he did not have the money for a lawyer or bail. While professing his innocence, Gomez Vasquez suggested his cousin, Fernández, had dedicated his life to using his access to those in power to hustle poor Dominicans.
“He has his people whose confidence he’s gained, then once they leave the country, they send him money to pay for the cars and the apartments, but often times he’s not paying the full amount,” Gomez Vasquez says in the video. “He likes expensive women, expensive cars, and the only way he can resolve that is in that matter.”
Gomez Vasquez also suggested Fernández was closely tied to a reputed criminal known by the nickname “El Abusador.” In the video, however, Gomez Vasquez doesn’t lay blame on anyone for the shooting.
Fernández has not responded to requests for comment. Days before Dominican officials identified him as the intended target, he publicly denied any role in the matter. He told a local radio station he had “no enemies,” not even a cat.
“I’m just a businessman,” Fernández said. “I have a garage shop.”
Reporters for the Globe visited the shop on two separate business days earlier this month.
The business was closed each time.
Nuestra #PolicíaRD informa el arresto de Alberto Rodríguez Mota, quien fue capturado por miembros de la @ArmadaRepDom en alta mar, específicamente en las costas de Samaná, tratando de ir hacia a Puerto Rico, donde pretendía evadir la justicia dominicana.— Policía Nacional República Dominicana (@PoliciaRD) June 28, 2019