The suspected gunman and the accomplices who ambushed and shot former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in the back Sunday night — leaving him hospitalized in intensive care with serious internal injuries — were paid less than $8,000 by unnamed criminals to carry out the coordinated attack, authorities in the Dominican Republic said Wednesday.
While the alleged shooter and four other suspects have been detained, and the handgun used in the attack recovered, the critical question of a motive remained unanswered.
"The investigation continues," Dominican police chief Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte said at a news conference Wednesday in the capital of Santo Domingo. "We are at less than 72 hours [since the attack], and you see the advances we have already made. Certainly that will continue."
Ortiz, 43, was resting in the ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he is expected to remain for at least several days. He has undergone two surgeries — one in the Dominican Republic in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the other at Mass General on Monday night — to remove his gallbladder and part of his intestines and repair his liver.
Ortiz "continues to recuperate today," his wife, Tiffany, said in a statement released through the Red Sox on Wednesday. "Yesterday and this morning, David was able to sit up as well as take some steps. His condition is guarded and he will remain in the ICU for the coming days, but he is making good progress towards recovery."
Tiffany Ortiz asked for privacy "while David continues to heal."
Dominican officials identified the suspected gunman as Rolfy Ferreyra Cruz, 25, and said he has been detained, along with four suspected accomplices. A sixth suspect, identified as Luis Alfredo Rivas Clases, remained at large Wednesday. Ferreyra, the police chief said, confessed to being the shooter.
"No person involved in this act will go unpunished," the Dominican Republic's attorney general, Jean Alain Rodriguez, said at the news conference. "We guarantee to all Dominicans and to the world that justice will be done."
Ortiz, whose 20-year major league career included 14 seasons, 10 all-star appearances and three World Series titles with the Red Sox, was sitting at a streetside bar in Santo Domingo, his hometown, when the shooter - who arrived on the back of a motorcycle driven by another man - approached him from behind, fired at close range and fled.
Two others were wounded in the attack, including television host Jhoel Lopez, who was seated with Ortiz and who was struck in the leg by the same bullet that hit Ortiz.
The driver of the motorcycle, Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, was apprehended and beaten by bystanders after the motorcycle faltered. In a court appearance Tuesday night, he was charged as an accomplice to an attempted murder. But his attorney, Deivi Solano, told reporters in Santo Domingo his client was a motorcycle taxi driver who was unaware he was driving the suspected gunman and had picked up the fare "in good faith."
The other suspects, authorities said, were parked nearby in a pair of Hyundai automobiles at the time of the attack. One of the suspects arrested Wednesday, Oliver Moises Mirabal Acosta, was sentenced to five years in prison for a drug-trafficking charge in May 2017, the Dominican newspaper Diario Libre reported.
The officials declined to speculate about possible motives behind the shooting, other than to rule out a robbery attempt, but they said the alleged coordinator behind the attack was among those arrested, and that the group was paid 400,000 Dominican pesos, or about $7,800 dollars, to carry it out.