The official story on David Ortiz’s shooting keeps changing
As Dominican officials continue to release information about the alleged plot behind the June 9 shooting of Red Sox legend David Ortiz, the story keeps changing.
On Sunday, Dominican authorities said at a news conference that the alleged price for the shooting was $30,000 — not $7,800 as they previously claimed. Police spokesman Frank Felix Duran Mejia described the haggling that led planners to arrive at the $30,000 figure, but he offered no explanation for the discrepancy.
And in the same announcement at the National Police palace, Duran Mejia did not directly respond to questions from reporters about whether authorities are still looking for a woman they previously said was wanted: Maria Fernanda Villasmil Manzanilla, also known as “The Venezuelan.”
Authorities previously said Villasmil Manzanilla was part of the murder plot and was in a car with Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase, also known as “The Surgeon,” when he met hours before the shooting with Gabriel Alexander Perez Vizcaíno.
Court documents obtained by the Globe on Sunday still list Villasmil Manzanilla as a “fugitive.”
The significance of those changes, though, pales in comparison to the biggest reversal so far in the case: the announcement June 19 that the intended target wasn’t Ortiz but Sixto David Fernández, who was seated across from Big Papi at the Dial Bar and Lounge.
The Dominican Republic’s top prosecutor said then that Fernández was allegedly targeted by his cousin, Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, who has ties to drug trafficking. Gomez Vasquez believes Fernández “gave him up” to law enforcement when he was arrested in 2011 and wanted him dead, authorities said.
The statement that the shooting was the result of mistaken identity was 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.”
Here’s a rundown of some of the other major discrepancies in the information Dominican officials have offered in the case.
1] The ringleader, and the motive — During a June 12 news conference, 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 June 19, officials named the man who allegedly ordered the hit not on Ortiz, but on Fernández: Gomez Vasquez, 43, who allegedly believed Fernández had given him up to law enforcement when Gomez Vasquez was arrested in 2011.
In addition, Gomez Vasquez has done prison time with another suspect now charged in the shooting. And Gomez 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 June 19 that Fernández was “the only one who would have something against [Gomez Vasquez] that would bring about this type of hit.”
Gomez Vasquez was arrested Friday in Santo Domingo.
2] Details on a key suspect — Court records obtained last month said 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 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 month, according to the filings.
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 showed that in the wake of the shooting, Mota was the only person who didn’t appear to act surprised, according to authorities. As patrons scattered in panic after the shooting, Mota “stayed in the same spot, observing what just happened,” said Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, director of the Dominican National Police.
“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.”
Mota was arrested Friday by Dominican Armed Forces.
3] Denials of the suspected gunman — Authorities have said 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, voiced skepticism last month of that assertion by Cruz, and 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.”