Authorities in the Dominican Republic shared new details about the David Ortiz shooting in a press conference Sunday, saying that the alleged price for the shooting was $30,000 — not $7,800 as previously claimed — and giving details about three newly arrested suspects.
Speaking at the National Police palace, spokesman Frank Felix Duran Mejia detailed how the arrests of alleged mastermind Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, Alberto Miguel Rodríguez Mota, and Junior Cesar La Hoz Vargas tie into the sprawling conspiracy.
Gomez Vasquez and Rodríguez Mota were arrested on Friday and La Hoz Vargas on Saturday.
On Sunday, all three men were ordered to be held behind bars for up to a year while investigations conclude. At least 11 other suspects are also being held for their roles in the plot.
At his court appearance Sunday, Gomez Vasquez maintained his innocence and said he “had no knowledge” about the June 9 shooting in a bar that seriously injured Ortiz.
“I’m here so that this can be clarified,” he told the judge, according to court documents. “I’m being accused of something I did not do, I fear for my life.”
Authorities said Gomez Vasquez ordered a hit on his cousin, Sixto David Fernández, who he believes informed on him to police, leading to his arrest in 2011. But, they say, Ortiz was mistakenly shot instead.
Following his arrest Friday, Rodríguez Mota told investigators that three weeks before the shooting, he was contacted by La Hoz Vargas, who told him that Gomez Vasquez wanted to meet with him for “a job,” according to Duran Mejia.
Gomez Vasquez, police said, asked Rodríguez Mota to get in contact with two inmates from the 15 de Azua prison, including one whom authorities identified as Carlos Rafael Álvarez.
It was Álvarez who named the price for the “job,” according to police.
Duran Mejia said Gomez Vasquez tried to haggle with Álvarez, countering with an offer of $25,000, “but they settled on $30,000.” Gomez Vasquez had only paid out $10,000 of that sum before he was arrested Friday, Duran Mejia said.
Álvarez’s lawyer, Bella Brea, said her client maintains his innocence.
“My client says he is innocent of everything they are saying,” Brea told the Globe. “I’m particularly waiting to see what proof they have against my client.”
According to authorities, Gomez Vasquez shared a photo of Fernández with Rodríguez Mota, telling him that Fernández frequented the Dial Bar and Lounge on Sundays.
Police said Rodríguez Mota made an initial trip to the Santo Domingo nightclub on May 26 and spotted Fernández sitting at one of his usual tables near the sidewalk.
He returned to the Dial on June 2, where he again saw Fernández, police said. He arrived around 7 p.m., drank several beers, watched a basketball game, and left around 11 p.m. — all while Fernández was still there, he allegedly told police.
Rodríguez Mota, police said, met with another suspect in the plot, Gabriel Alexánder Pérez Vizcaíno, nicknamed “The Bone,” later that week.
It was then that the date for the job was decided — the following Sunday, June 9.
Wanted in Texas for alleged ties to a drug-trafficking ring, Gomez Vasquez said he had told La Hoz Vargas that he did not want Fernández to see him in the Dominican Republic because he was afraid his cousin would turn him in again. Gomez Vasquez believes that comment led La Hoz Vargas to decide to “take down” Fernández — without his permission, according to police.
Police do not know how long Gomez Vasquez had been in the Dominican Republic, but said he fled the US mainland to Puerto Rico. From there, he took a boat to the Dominican Republic, landing at a point off the coast of of La Romana province, more than hour’s drive east of the capital.
Gomez Vasquez and Rodríguez Mota, who authorities said took the dimly lit photo of Fernandez that led to confusion about the intended target, were both arrested Friday.
One suspect, Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase, who goes by the nickname “The Surgeon,” remains at large.
On Sunday, Duran Mejia urged Rivas Clase to turn himself in.
But Duran Mejia did not directly respond to questions from reporters about whether authorities are still looking for a woman who they had previously said was wanted. She was identified by police as Maria Fernanda Villasmil Manzanilla , also known as “The Venezuelan.”
“We’re looking to talk to everyone involved,” he said.
Court documents obtained by the Globe Sunday still list her as a “fugitive.”
When Rodríguez Mota, who authorities said arrived at the nightclub hours before the shooting, was arrested, he had a fake ID, the Central Electoral Board of the Dominican Republic said on its Twitter account Friday. The ID was not printed at the agency, according to the tweets.
📡 La JCE informa que la cédula que portaba al momento de su detención Alberto Rodríguez Mota, investigado en el atentado contra David Ortiz, es una falsificación realizada con datos que corresponden a otra persona, en un plástico que no fue impreso por la JCE. (1/2)— JCE (@juntacentral) June 29, 2019
The Central Electoral Board is the only institution authorized to issue and deliver the official ID document to every Dominican citizen.
In a seven-minute video made before his arrest, Gomez Vasquez denied any involvement with the attempted killing. In the video, which was obtained by the Globe and widely shared on Dominican media, Gomez Vasquez said he “would never do something like that.”
Denying any involvement with “any attempted homicide against Sixto David Fernández, and much less with Big Papi,” Gomez Vasquez also said his cousin “is not the saint that he wants to portray himself to be.”
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 blame anyone for the attack.
The June 9 shooting of Ortiz shocked the Caribbean nation, where he is revered. The former Red Sox slugger suffered damage to his organs, including his small intestine, large intestine, and liver, and has undergone multiple surgeries. He was moved out of intensive care last week and continues to recover at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The authorities’ statement that the shooting was the result of mistaken identity has been met with skepticism from many people in Santo Domingo, including Fernández.
In an interview with Zol 106.5 FM given days before he was named as the intended target, Fernández said he and Ortiz are “two very different people physically.”
“Logic exists,” he told the radio station.
Dominican authorities have defended their conclusion, with Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez declaring at a June press conference that the results were based on “irrefutable” evidence.