The brazen daytime shooting of a reputed high-ranking member of the Montreal Mafia represents "a kind of final cleanup of the old guard," says an expert on organized crime in the city.

Rocco Sollecito, 67, was gunned down while driving a white BMW SUV in Laval on Friday morning, in what local police plainly termed a "mob hit."

Pierre de Champlain, author of a history of organized crime in Montreal, said Sollecito's death is part of an ongoing dismantling of the older generation of the Rizzuto crime family. 

"The history of Mafia teaches us that each time that the Mafia has gone through trouble it was often due to the purposeful conflict of the old generation versus the young generation, and today the Mafia of Montreal is a perfect example," de Champlain said in an interview.

Rocco Sollecito

Police say Rocco Sollecito was shot while driving a white BMW SUV on Friday. (Antoine Sirois/Radio-Canada)

Sollecito was an "influential figure" in the Mafia who acted as a consigliere to the new alleged leaders of the Mafia, Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito, he said.

'Not what it once was'

De Champlain said it's difficult to say who was behind the shooting, whether it was another crime family or an upstart gang, explaining that alliances have become "totally fragmented."

"It's not what it once was," he said. "It's been reduced to a simple gang."

A power vacuum

Author and organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso says it's a guessing game as to where this challenge to the Rizzuto clan could be coming from — Ontario, Quebec or within the same organization.

"There is terror and fear on the street. There is no one from the old guard capable of a counter-attack." - Organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso

He says the crime family is dealing with a power vacuum.

"The major problem is replacing Vito Rizzuto," Nicaso told CBC News.

"There is no one with the charisma who is capable of leading the organization. There is terror and fear on the street. There is no one from the old guard capable of a counterattack."

Nicaso thinks the violence on the streets will only get worse.

"Whoever is behind this murder is someone who wants to remove the Rizzuto crime family from the map," he said.

The downfall

The Rizzuto crime family, once considered one of the most powerful in Canada, has been in an extended period of upheaval.

The shooting comes three months after another Rizzuto lieutenant, Lorenzo (Skunk) Giordano, was gunned down.

Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito were arrested in organized crime raids in November.

They are both facing charges of committing an offence for a criminal organization and drug trafficking. 

Turmoil nearing its end?

​Leonardo's father, Vito Rizzuto, longtime patriarch of the Montreal Mafia, died of natural causes in 2013.

His brother Nick Jr. and grandfather Nicolo were shot dead in separate incidents in 2010.  

Sylvain Tremblay, a former investigator with the Sûreté du Québec, said he doesn't necessarily expect to see retribution for Friday's shooting.

Given how many key figures are already dead or behind bars, Tremblay said the upheaval may be "reaching its end."

with files from Radio-Canada