Boston Red Sox icon David Ortiz was not the intended target of the Dominican Republic shooting that left him fighting for his life earlier this month, police revealed on Wednesday.
The islands’s attorney general said Ortiz’s friend, Sixto David Fernandez, was the actual target in the nightclub shooting, but the gunman told police that he got confused. Fernandez and Ortiz were sitting at the same table and dressed similarly at the time of the shooting, police noted.
Ortiz previously told authorities that he didn’t know who would target him.
The retired Red Sox legend, affectionately known to fans as “Big Papi,” was shot in the back while at a nightclub in Santo Domingo on June 9. The bullet entered the former player’s back and exited through his abdomen, leaving him with life-threatening injuries. He was still recovering at a Boston hospital as of Wednesday evening.
At least 13 people have been named as suspects in the shooting. The masterminds were identified as Victor Hugo Gomez and Alberto Rodriguez Mota, who was sentenced to prison for drug trafficking in 2011 along with some of the other suspects.
Who ordered the hit and why?
Gomez, a convicted drug dealer who met many of the other suspects involved in the shooting while previously behind bars, ordered the hit on Fernandez, according to authorities.
Gomez was described as a “dangerous fugitive” who is wanted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and others for his alleged role within the feared Gulf drug cartel, officials said. Gomez was charged in connection to a drug trafficking sting in March 2019 in Houston called “Operation Wrecking Ball,” according to an indictment obtained by ABC News.
Gomez believed that Fernandez spoke to law enforcement and was responsible for causing Gomez to be incarcerated in the La Victoria prison in the Dominican Republic for years, officials said.
Fernandez previously identified Gomez as the one person who would want kill him, noting that he’d received threatening messages from him in the past, according to police.
Authorities said Gomez was last seen in the U.S. and they believed he planned the hit from there.
Details on the plan
The suspects began conducting surveillance on Fernandez a week before the shooting, including going to his home, authorities said.
Fernandez was known to reserve a table every Sunday at the nightclub, El Dial, where the shooting took place.
At 5:40 p.m. the day of the shooting, Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota, one of the suspects, arrives at the nightclub before Fernandez.
Ortiz arrives at the club at around 7:30 p.m. where he meets up with Fernandez.
At one point before the shooting, Mota gets up from his table and takes a picture of Fernandez, the intended target, and marks it with a circle and arrow showing who is supposed to be shot, officials said.
The photo is relayed to a number of the co-conspirators and is ultimately shown to the gunman minutes before he gets on a motorcycle and heads toward the nightclub, police said.
When police recovered images from the phones taken from the suspects, they saw photos of Ortiz and Fernandez together, wearing what appears based on the photos themselves to be very similar shirts.
The suspects soon realized they shot the wrong person, officials said.
Three suspects are still wanted in connection to the shooting, police said.
Luis Alfredo Rivas-Clase, whose nickname is “The Surgeon,” Victor Hugo Gomez, the alleged mastermind and Alberto Miguel Rodrigez Mota, who took the photo of Fernandez at the nightclub, are all wanted by authorities.
The police chief said they have requested help from U.S. authorities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Office.