Former major league baseball slugger David Ortiz was left fighting for his life after being shot in the back at a Dominican Republic club earlier this month, but authorities now believe he was never the intended target of the hit.
The real target—according to the Dominican Republic’s attorney general and national police director—was Sixto David Fernández, a friend of Ortiz’s who had been sitting at the same table and was wearing similar clothes when the attempted hit was carried out just before 9 p.m. on June 9 at the Dial Bar and Lounge.
Dominican authorities now believe the hit on Fernández had been ordered by his cousin Victor Hugo Gomez, who wanted to seek retribution after he believed Fernández had turned him into Dominican drug investigators in 2011, The Associated Press reports.
To carry out the hit, Gomez reportedly enlisted the help of a large crew—accomplices from minor players to major contributors including the alleged shooter, a man believed to have paid for the hit, and another who helped coordinate the attack. At least 11 people have already been arrested and implicated in the crime.
Ortiz was inadvertently caught in the foiled plot after he arrived at the club in similar attire to his friend Fernández, authorities say.
National Police Director Maj. Gen. Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte said authorities believe Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota put up the $7,800 to carry out the hit and was instructed by Gomez to go to the nightclub on the night of the shooting to wait for Fernández to arrive, CNN reports.
He went to the popular nightclub at 5:40 p.m. and waited several hours until Fernández arrived. Once he had gotten the club, he took a photo of Fernández sitting at a table and texted the image to Jose Eduardo Ciprian, a suspect in a Dominican prison who is believed to be part of the plot, Bautista Almonte said.
Ciprian reportedly texting the image to another man Gabriel Alexander Perez Vizcaíno, who showed the image to a team of would-be assassins and told them it was the man they should “liquidate,” court documents said.
The suspects were only given the image as a guide and didn’t have a name, authorities said. In the image a white freezer had partially obscured Fernández, making it appear as though he had been wearing white pants when in reality he was wearing black pants.
“It was a badly lit photo taken minutes before the attack,” Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez said.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, Ortiz had been wearing white pants that night at the club and was shot in the back by Rolfi Ferreira Cruz, authorities said. The bullet went through his intestines and internal organs before exiting his body and striking Dominican TV host Jhoel Lopez in the leg.
Ortiz was rushed to a Dominican hospital, where his gallbladder and a portion of his intestines were removed, before he was flown by the Red Sox to a Boston hospital. He continues to recover in Boston, surrounded by his wife and three children.
Ortiz, affectionately known as Big Papi by his fans, is one of the most well-known baseball players in the Dominican Republic and is also beloved by many in the United States after playing in the major leagues for 20 seasons before retiring in 2016.
Gomez, the alleged mastermind, remains at large, and is believed to be living in the United States where he is being sought by the Drug Enforcement Agency in connection with drug trafficking. Authorities also continue to search for Rodriguez Mota, suspect Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase and a woman known as The Venezuelan, who is believed to have played a role in the attack.
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