David Ortiz was the victim of mistaken identity when he was shot in the back at a Dominican Republic nightclub this month, the country’s attorney general said Wednesday.
Ortiz was sitting at a table with the intended target, a friend who was wearing similar clothing, which confused the gunman, according to authorities.
Speaking at a news conference in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, Ortiz’s hometown, Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez told reporters that the shooting was masterminded by a fugitive connected to Mexico’s Gulf Cartel.
That man, identified as Victor Hugo Gomez, was alleged to have wanted his cousin, Sixto David Fernandez, dead for turning him in to narcotics investigators several years ago (via the AP).
Ortiz, 43, was badly wounded by the June 9 shooting, in which a bullet exited through his abdomen and also injured another person seated with him, TV personality Jhoel Lopez. The former Red Sox slugger underwent emergency surgery in Santo Domingo before being flown by the team to Boston, where he is continuing to recover at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Tiffany Ortiz, his wife, said Tuesday that doctors have listed Ortiz’s condition as “good.”
In addition to Gomez, other suspects at large include Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota, who allegedly provided the $7,800 used to pay the team of attackers, and Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase, said to have helped coordinate the shooting.
Gomez and Rivas Clase are being sought by U.S. authorities in unrelated cases. Gomez was charged in March by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Texas with four counts related to drug trafficking; Rivas Clase was declared last week by a Pennsylvania prosecutor to be a suspect wanted in connection with a 2018 shooting in Reading.
Eleven suspects have been detained in the Ortiz shooting, including the alleged gunman, 25-year-old Rolfi Ferreira-Cruz, who is also wanted in New Jersey on armed robbery and gun charges. Video emerged last week that appeared to show him speaking out from behind window bars in his jail cell, claiming that he did not mean to shoot Ortiz but was confused by the ex-slugger’s attire.
Rodriguez and the director of the Dominican National Police, General Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, said at the news conference that one of the people who orchestrated the attack took a photo of Fernandez at the nightclub before Ortiz arrived. That photo was subsequently shown to the group of would-be assassins, per reports, but Ferreira-Cruz was mistakenly led to believe that his target would be wearing white pants, which Ortiz had on at the time.
Ortiz’s baseball career ended in 2016 after he helped the Red Sox break their 86-year World Series drought and win three championships between 2004 and 2013. The 10-time all-star was a galvanizing figure in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, and his gregarious personality and on-field exploits have made him popular among baseball fans.
Ortiz is also a revered superstar in his homeland, and as reports began to surface that the shooting might be a case of mistaken identity, questions arose as to how anyone in Santo Domingo could not have recognized him.
Rodriguez was asked by ESPN whether the explanation of the case offered Wednesday might cause skepticism, and he replied, “We presented irrefutable audio and video evidence today. Science is science, evidence is evidence. These facts are undisputed; the rest is speculation.”