A brazen fatal shooting in an Old Montreal clothing store Thursday afternoon could be a response to the recent slaying of the son of Vito Rizzuto, the reputed head of the Montreal Mafia, police sources said.
Two men are dead and two others wounded after the shooting at Flawnego Fashion at 240 Saint-Jacques St. W., near Saint-François-Xavier Street, around 1:45 p.m., said Montreal police Const. Olivier Lapointe.
Witnesses described two men fleeing the scene with white bandanas covering their faces. At least one man was said to be wearing a Rastafarian-style, dreadlocked wig, which was later found nearby.
Joseph Ducarme, the owner of the boutique, is suspected of being linked to street gangs.
"Since the police operation called Coliseum [in 2006], Ducarme has taken up a lot of space," said former journalist Michel Auger, who has written extensively about organized crime, in an interview with Radio-Canada.
"He is very involved in the bars on St. Laurent Street and Montreal’s trendy milieu."
Police chief visits crime scene
Thursday's shooting created a stir in the city's financial district, an area also popular with tourists and not far from the city courthouse.
Montreal police chief Yvan Delorme even paid a visit to the scene of the crime.
The names of the victims were not released. One man was confirmed dead in the high-end boutique while a second died in hospital, police said.
The two injured men — one of whom went to hospital on his own — are in serious but stable condition, said Lapointe. One of the men was shot in the face, he said.
Police said they received a rash of 911 calls reporting the shooting.
Shocked office workers were told they wouldn't be allowed back in their buildings and looked on as investigators searched the area for clues.
"There was blood in the lobby," said one man who refused to give his family name.
"There were about 15 drops of blood in the exterior lobby … as big as quarters."
Locals said several complaints had been made to police about suspicious activities at the boutique — and the lack of actual merchandise for sale.
"There was a lot of coming and going at night and on the weekends, pretty suspicious-looking people having meetings in the boutique, arriving in big land rovers, Mercedes … it was just very suspicious," said one man who asked not to be identified.
Settling of accounts?
Police sources said Thursday's shootings might be linked to a hit on Nick Rizzuto Jr., who was shot at point-blank range in broad daylight Dec. 28, 2009.
The incident happened as the son of the notorious suspected mob boss was reportedly leaving the home of a female friend in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood.
Police are still at a loss to explain Rizzuto's killing, said Auger.
Investigators have said they are looking at the possibility that Rizzuto Jr.'s killing is connected to a string of firebombings at Montreal cafés that occurred in the months before and after his death.
Police have said they are exploring a variety of possible theories about a Mafia turf war.
A power struggle pitting Montreal's mobsters against their counterparts in Toronto is one possible scenario; a battle between Calabrian families and the Rizzutos' Sicilian clan is another.
Seventy-three reputed members of the Montreal Mafia were arrested during Operation Coliseum in November 2006, including Nick Rizzuto Jr.'s grandfather, Nick Sr.
Vito Rizzuto is currently in a medium-security prison in Colorado, serving a 10-year sentence for racketeering in connection with three murders in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1981
Thursday's shooting deaths are the fifth and sixth homicides so far this year in Montreal, police said.