MONTREAL — The scion of Canada’s most powerful Mafia family was gunned down Monday in a bold, violent strike that had experts predicting bitter reprisals and a potential Mob war.
Nick Rizzuto was shot in broad daylight beside a Mercedes sedan and he collapsed into the freshly falling snow as terrified onlookers watched the gunman flee.
He was the son of Vito Rizzuto, the so-called godfather of the country’s dominant Mafia clan.
When reached at the hospital, a lawyer for the family declined to comment. Lawyer Loris Cavaliere told The Canadian Press there would be no immediate statement from the family.
An expert on the Italian Mafia called it a historic attempt to wrest control from the Sicilian family. He said there had been no such move since the Rizzutos themselves rose to prominence in the 1970s.
“It’s a tsunami,” said Antonio Nicaso, the author of several books on the Mafia.
“This is an unprecedented challenge to the Rizzuto crime family. . . Since (the 1970s) they were in charge of criminal activity in Montreal — without any challenge to their authority.”
Nicaso says the move was made possible after a series of police operations wiped out a layer of the family’s management, with Vito Rizzuto himself in a U.S. jail.
He says rivals sought to strike the Rizzutos when they were at their weakest.
Nicaso and other crime experts are now warning of an escalation in gangland violence.
“There will be, for sure, a retaliation,” Nicaso said.
Nicaso says the killing may be related to a string of recent firebombings of Italian coffee shops in Montreal, and could have been the work of street gangs.
He says the Rizzutos’ decision to align themselves with some street gangs was a controversial one — not only within the Italian Mafia, but it also created enemies among the city’s Haitian street gangs.
Police have charged a Haitian man in connection with the recent coffee-shop firebombings.
And several witnesses Monday described the gunman as a black man.
Another expert on the Mob says he’s not drawing any conclusions.
“It’s not because someone’s black that a street gang was necessarily involved,” said former RCMP investigator Pierre de Champlain. “That means nothing. The person who ordered the killing could have been anyone.”