Uribe denies involvement in shooting, claims extortion

SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic -- Chicago White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe denied any involvement in an incident in which two people were shot early Saturday near his home in the Dominican.

Speaking by phone with ESPNdeportes.com from his home in Juan Baron, Uribe said he spent more than two hours at the San Cristobal courthouse Tuesday being questioned by district attorney Robert Lugo regarding the shooting of two men near his home in Juan Baron, a coastal city about 40 miles southwest of Santo Domingo. Uribe was released around 12:15 p.m. with his brother, Elpidio, and a friend, Jose Manuel Encarnacion, who were arrested Sunday, Lugo said.

"I'm completely innocent," Uribe told ESPNdeportes.com. "They're trying to extort me because they know I play in the major leagues. They sent word to me that if I give them 1,000,000 pesos [about 33,000 U.S. dollars], all of this will go away."

The men are suspected of shooting and wounding a Dominican farmer, Antonio Gonzalez Perez, and a captain in the Italian Navy, Dondolin Alessandro, with a pistol and a shotgun when the pair walked too close to Uribe's jeep around midnight Friday, police said.

An arrest warrant issued Monday for Uribe was voided, but he had to turn over his gun to police and return to the courthouse later this week, Lugo said. Uribe was scheduled to report to his Dominican winter league team, the Escogido Lions, on Tuesday.

According to Lugo, Uribe and his lawyers told prosecutors he was not in Juan Baron when the shooting took place. Uribe, though, denied that claim in his interview with ESPNdeportes.com.

"I was at home talking to my father when all of this happened," Uribe said. "There are a ton of witnesses that can corroborate what I'm saying. No one saw me in the place where the shooting happened.

"Just like me, [Gonzalez] grew up here and has lived all his life in Juan Baron," Uribe added. "He was banging on a public telephone next to my car and I told him to stop. Things went no further than that. Afterwards, I was at home, which is very close to the park where the incident happened, and I heard shots. My brother and friend came over and told me that they had argued with [Gonzalez] and [Alessandro]."

But Gonzalez, who was at the courthouse, said he clearly saw Uribe and got into an argument with him before seeing the player pull out a gun and fire.

"Uribe was the one who shot me. He was very angry without anyone having done anything," said the 44-year-old Gonzalez, who suffered an elbow injury. Gonzalez has filed a civil suit against the ballplayer.

Uribe told ESPNdeportes.com that, in the original police report, Gonzalez accused only the player's brother and friend in the incident, but that on Monday a lawyer told him that he could make a lot of money if a major league player were involved.

"Not only that," Uribe continued, "but during questioning on Tuesday, the Italian admitted that I wasn't there when the shots were fired. The authorities have my gun for ballistics tests that will prove I didn't do it."

Uribe said his agent has kept the White Sox informed of the case, and he doesn't think the incident will affect his status on the team.

Alessandro was treated for injuries to his stomach and hands. The Italian embassy in Santo Domingo did not return several calls for comment and officials there did not respond to an e-mail sent Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, White Sox general manager Ken Williams endorsed the 27-year-old Uribe as his shortstop for next season despite a disappointing 2006 in which he hit .235 with 21 homers and 71 RBI.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.