A mix-up and a bad photo contributed to a gunman shooting retired Red Sox player David Ortiz by mistake, instead of his intended target in Santo Domingo, Dominican officials announced Wednesday.
Surveillance video from the evening of June 9 shows a man who approaches Ortiz, a legend in his native Dominican Republic, and shoots him in the back at close range as Ortiz sits at a bar’s outdoor table in the country’s capital.
Next to Ortiz was his friend Sixto David Fernández, who was the actual target, said Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez and Maj. Gen. Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, director of the national police. The officials delivered an update on the shooting at a news conference in Santo Domingo.
About a dozen people have been arrested, including Rolfi Ferreras Cruz, the man police say is the gunman.
Dominican officials say Víctor Hugo Gómez, whom they describe as an associate of a Mexican drug cartel, is believed to have orchestrated the hit in an attempt to murder his cousin, Fernández. They say Gómez suspected his relative of betraying him to Dominican drug investigators years earlier.
Fernández was well-known at the upscale Dial Bar and Lounge, regularly reserving a table on Sundays, police said. Ortiz, on the other hand, rarely visited, so his appearance there came as a pleasant surprise to the other guests.
But that unexpected visit would place Ortiz at the wrong place and wrong time in what officials called “a regrettable mistake.” They point to evidence that includes mobile communications between the suspects describing Fernández’s table, along with a blurry photo taken minutes before the attack.
An accomplice, identified as Alberto Miguel Rodríguez Mota, snapped a picture of Fernández at the bar in an effort to help the gunman identify him, the authorities said. But the lighting was bad and in the image Fernández’s lower body was obscured by a white object, making it seem that he was wearing white pants. Fernández was actually wearing black pants. And Ortiz, clad in white pants, was hit with the bullet meant for Fernández, officials said.
Speaking through the bars of his Dominican jail cell last week, Ferreras Cruz told reporters that he mistakenly shot Ortiz based on information about the color of his clothing. Officials have now corroborated the claim for the first time.
Still, as The Associated Press reports, some Dominicans remain skeptical that a baseball superstar who looms large at over 6 feet tall and dresses in distinctively flashy clothing and jewelry could be confused with Fernández, who appears to be much smaller and have a lighter complexion.
Ortiz, 43, remains hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital after undergoing surgery. His wife, Tiffany Ortiz, said this week that doctors have upgraded his condition to good.
Known by the affectionate nickname Big Papi, Ortiz retired from the Red Sox in 2016, after helping the team win three World Series championships. Over his near-two-decade career in the majors, Ortiz hit 541 home runs and was a 10-time All Star.
Television personality Jhoel López was also injured in the shooting at the bar; he is expected to recover.
Gómez, the alleged mastermind, remains at large and is believed to be in the United States. Attorney General Rodríguez says they have asked the FBI for help in capturing him.