How could David Ortiz possibly be mistaken for anyone else in his hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic?
According to CNN’s Rey Sanchez, that’s a question many in Ortiz’s homeland are now asking out loud and privately.
On Wednesday, authorities in the Dominican Republic said the June 9 shooting of Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo was a case of mistaken identity. That Sixto David Fernandez, who was also seated at Ortiz’s table, was the intended target of alleged mastermind Victor Hugo Gomez.
The announcement was met with skepticism in the Dominican Republic and beyond. That’s when Sanchez decided to reach out to get a real sense of how people in the Dominican were reacting.
The responses hit both ends of the spectrum. Some were concerned about misleading information being fed by the government. Others expressed confidence in the authority’s findings.
Dominicans have harbored a healthy dose of skepticism about government pronouncements since the days of the violent dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who, beginning in 1930, ruled with an iron fist for about three decades.
Doubts about the Ortiz investigation also stem from the fact authorities now say the real target was Sixto David Fernandez, a friend of Ortiz. While police say the men were dressed similarly, they have different physical appearances.
Ortiz is a strapping 6'3 and 250 pounds, according to the Red Sox. He's one of the most famous and recognizable athletes in the world. Fernandez is smaller and thinner, with a lighter complexion.
"They don't look alike at all," says Bienvenido Rojas, a longtime sports reporter for Diario Libre. "Some people will tell you that even a breastfeeding infant can identify David Ortiz."
According to the authorities, a blurry photo and the club’s lighting were enough to throw off alleged gunman Rolfi Ferreira Cruz.
Prosecution spokesman Erick Montilla dismissed those claims. He believes Cruz is saying whatever he feels necessary to avoid rough treatment in jail.
"He can say whatever he wants in an interview," Montilla said. "What matters is the investigation and what he said in the interrogation."
He added, "If you observe the video (of the shooting), he goes directly to where the victim is and shoots without hesitation."
Authorities have arrested 11 suspects so far, but are still on the hunt for Victor Hugo Gomez. Meanwhile, much of the country is still searching for answers.
As noted, there are also those who choose to believe the authorities’ side of the story on the mistaken identity claim.
Among them is 72-year-old Luis Mercedes, who founded the youth baseball league that helped develop Ortiz’s skills and shape his love for the game. Mercedes says "A lot of people don't believe it, but I go with what the national authorities say."
The story hasn’t divided the country, but those immersed in it say it has gripped the Dominican Republic since the moment it first broke. That will undoubtedly continue until Ortiz comes home and they feel justice is served.
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