Big Papi shooting update: Officials now say Ortiz wasn’t the intended target

Thursday, June 20th:


The complexity of the David Ortiz shooting took another head scratching twist last night. Instead of gaining some clarity on this case as time has waned, the truth on Big Papi’s situation keeps getting more murky by the day.

The Dominican’s top prosecutor, Jean Alain Rodriguez, gave a brand new explanation of the events prior to Ortiz getting shot in the back while sitting in a popular bar in Santo Domingo.

New details reveal the attack was an order carried out by a Dominican native associated with the Gulf Cartel by the name of Victor Hugo Gomez. This is one of the largest Mexican drug trafficking organizations. He suspected that his cousin, Sixto David Fernandez, had betrayed him and wanted to take his life as a result.

Authorities said Gomez had unspecified business ties with his cousin Fernandez, who runs a car repair shop and has no record of any criminal history. However, Gomez was arrested on drug charges back in 2011. He believed it happened because Fernandez gave him up to the authorities.

Fast forward to the night in question, this past Sunday June 9th, Rodriguez said Ortiz and Fernandez were both sitting together and wearing similar dark shirts. Nay Aldrin Bautista, the head of the Dominican Republic national police, displayed security footage and photographs at a news conference to try to recreate the development that ultimately led to the shooting.

Bautista identified the man originally thought to be the head mastermind, Alberto Rodriguez Mota, who is still at large, arriving at the Dial Bar and Lounge where the shooting took place hours before Ortiz and Fernandez came.

Fernandez arrived at his reserved table and was later joined by Ortiz and a local TV show host Jhoel Lopez who is close with Ortiz. Bautista said just before 8 p.m Mota took an obstructed photo of the men where they were sitting. He then sent the photo to the coordinators of the operation, including a description of their appearance and the location of their table.

The piece of information that hasn’t changed in the last 24 hours is Rolfi Ferreira Cruz is still the suspected gunman. Allegedly the obstructed photo of the men at the table caused some confusion for Cruz, who is said to have targeted Ortiz with the belief that it was Fernandez. “The darkness of the photo is what unfortunately led to the mistake against our David Ortiz,” Rodriguez said in Spanish.

All of the pieces still don’t fit this case’s puzzle. First off, Ortiz is maybe the most recognizable man in all of the Dominican Republic. He stands at 6’3, weighs 230 pounds, and as we all know he was a great MLB player for nearly two decades. His large frame combined with his notoriety makes it hard to believe that he could’ve been mistaken for like that.

In addition, it’s quite clear that the so called intended target Fernandez, (pictured below with Ortiz) has a much lighter skin tone and is far smaller in stature. Cruz was working with an unsound image of Fernandez and Ortiz, but it’s still very hard to envision Cruz making such a grave mistake given the ramifications of the attempted operation.

Also, if authorities are correct in Gomez’s original motive to take out his cousin Fernandez being a result of him giving Gomez up to police in 2011, why did the murder attempt take eight years to devise?

Rodriguez interviewed Big Papi at the clinic in Santo Domingo the day after the shooting. Ortiz told him he didn’t receive any warnings or threats that could lead to an attack. He wouldn’t know why anyone would want to hurt him.

Now we understand if Ortiz has history with either Gomez or Mota, it would be in his best interest to keep that to himself. But it does sound like Ortiz was like the rest of us, utterly shocked by what happened.

There’s still plenty to hash out in the coming days or weeks to get a clear picture on why Ortiz was gunned down in Santo Domingo. 11 men connected to the case including the gunmen Cruz have been detained since the shooting. Meanwhile four other suspects, including Mota and the mastermind, Gomez, who is believed to be somewhere in the United States, still remain at large.

*This article has been updated from its original version


Tuesday, June 18th:

A little more than a week since the David Ortiz shooting in Santo Domingo, the most important piece of information is Ortiz’s wife, Tiffany, has affirmed his condition is now ‘good’. He’s still currently in the hospital, but is expected to make a full recovery.

As Ortiz has continued to receive treatment in the ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital, more details have emerged as to how the shooting unfolded. Dominican prosecutors say a fugitive suspect by the name of Alberto Miguel Rogriguez Mota devised the plan for the shooting. Another suspect, Gabriel Alexander Perez Vizcaino, served as Rodriguez Mota’s go-between guy, helping coordinate the hit on Ortiz.

Suspects Carlos Alvarez and Jose Eduardo Ciprian have been identified as the two men hired by Rodriguez Mota. The two helped orchestrate the attack and distributed a total of $7,800 through Mota to would-be assassins from prison, according to court documents.

On the day the shooting occurred, Sunday June 9th, Ciprian is believed to text a picture of the former Red Sox slugger from his prison cell to the aforementioned middle-man Perez Vizcaino. Perez Vizcaino then took the photo and met with a “criminal group” at a gas station to show them the man who they were setting out to “liquidate,” according to the indictment.

According to Ortiz’s lawyer, Jose Hoopelman, Perez Vizcaino attended a court hearing on Monday and was given a year of pre-trial detention.

The accused gunman in the case Rolfi Ferreira Cruz was arrested on Wednesday and confessed to the shooting. Ferreira Cruz claimed he was attempting to shoot someone else to reporters. Prosecutors say this is an outrageously poor excuse considering Ortiz is one of the most recognizable people in the country. He is one of the greatest athletes to come out of the “DR” after all.

Dominican officials have reported that video footage has been revealed showing Ferreira Cruz and his getaway driver Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia speaking with people inside a car parked near the club where the shooting took place. That car and another both fled the scene immediately after Ortiz got shot in the lower back at a crowded bar patio.

Unfortunately the biggest question mark has yet to be answered in a case that has shaken the entire Dominican Republic. Why? It is still unclear to Dominican officials why Rodriguez Mota would have the motivation to pay nearly $8,000 for the death of one of the Dominican Republic’s most beloved figures.

It’s still quite possible that he was acting on someone else’s orders who hasn’t been identified yet. In addition to the search of Rodriguez Mota, police said searching has begun for another suspect at large, Luis Alfredo Rivas-Clase, who goes by the nickname “El Cirujano” meaning “The surgeon.”

Thus far, 11 suspects are in custody and facing charges. Most are believed to be from poor neighborhoods who served as pawns in the assassination attempt on Ortiz. At the hearing a judge ordered nine of the suspects to stay in jail for at least a year while they await trial.

There’s still plenty to unpack and discover in terms of why the all time great Red Sox hitter was attacked.

Ortiz has such a high character and vibrant personality, proving himself to be a great ambassador for baseball over his career and a crucial uplifting voice for the city of Boston in the aftermath of the 2013 marathon bombing. So although I’m antsy to see this situation fully resolved sooner rather than later, for now I’m satisfied with at least being reassured that “Big Papi” is safe and recovering successfully.

-Simon Brady


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