May 27, 2016 - 2:30 PM
MONTREAL - Rocco Sollecito, described by Mafia experts as a former leading figure in the notorious Rizzuto crime family, was shot dead in his car near Montreal on Friday.
Sollecito, 67, was "possibly" tied to organized crime and was shot one or more times, said provincial police spokesman Jason Allard.
His murder comes after his son, Stefano, was arrested in November in a major drug sweep and accused of being an influential leader of the Montreal Mafia.
Also arrested that same month was Leonardo Rizzuto, who police say worked with Stefano in a large-scale drug-trafficking operation.
Stefano is the son of Vito Rizzuto, the alleged leader of the Rizzuto crime family who died of natural causes in 2013, shortly after his release from a U.S. prison.
News reports said Sollecito was gunned down near his home in Laval, not far from a police station.
Maria Pacheco said she rushed to the scene to see what had happened.
"When I got here there were two cars, one white and one red behind it," Pacheco said. "I saw the man sitting in the car and the windshield was all broken."
Allard said Sollecito was pronounced dead in hospital.
A retired Montreal police investigator familiar with the Mafia told The Canadian Press Sollecito was a childhood friend of Vito Rizzuto and became an influential part of his crime syndicate.
The retired investigator said Rocco Sollecito was Vito Rizzuto's "right-hand man" and was blamed by some in the Rizzuto clan for not doing enough to protect the family when Vito was in prison.
During his incarceration, Vito Rizzuto's eldest son, Nicolo Jr., was murdered in Montreal in 2009. About a year later, Vito Rizzuto's father, also named Nicolo, was shot dead in his home.
Sollecito reportedly had been making money on his own doing side deals, the officer said.
"He was in the bad books for three or four years now," he said. "(Sollecito's) murder was coming."
The ex-officer said Sollecito was from Bari, Italy, and would never have taken the reins of the Rizzuto family, which hails from Sicily and promotes its own.
Moreover, Sollecito's murder looks like a professional hit, the officer said, because the killer seemed to know the victim's habits and whereabouts.
"This (murder) was likely internal," he said, rejecting the idea that Sollecito was killed by a rival clan. "They are just bleeding internally. It was a cleanup."
News from © The Canadian Press , 2016