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Montreal police officers at the scene where a man was shot in Montreal, Monday, Dec., 28, 2009. The man was eventually identified as the son of Vito Rizzuto, Nick.

Graham Hughes

Speculation continues over the fallout - and what seems to be a lack of retaliation - in the targeted daylight killing of the eldest son of senior gangland player Vito Rizzuto.

There was a large turnout at the solemn funeral service for Nicolo (Nick) Rizzuto Jr. on Saturday in Little Italy - mourners overflowed into aisles at Notre-Dame-de-la Défense church. Among them, plainclothes police videotaped those who came to pay their respects.

Mr. Rizzuto, 42, was shot last Monday standing next to a black Mercedes near the offices of a construction-industry associate in a Montreal suburb. The hit was a direct blow to the authority of the Rizutto family in an already turbulent climate, including challenges from other crime syndicates and pressure from the justice system.

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Mr. Rizzuto's father, Vito, is serving time in a U.S. prison at a time when other leaders of the clan are also in prison. He did not attend the funeral, according to reports, but 85-year-old family patriarch Nicolo Sr. was there despite being under stringent probation restrictions.

The work of finding those behind Mr. Rizzuto's murder will not be easy, say observers of Montreal's organized crime scene. Nor will mapping out how any possible turf wars will erupt and play out.

"This was an unprecedented challenge to the Rizzuto family because, for the first time, they are in defensive mode," said Mafia expert Antonio Nicaso.

"In normal circumstances, this would lead to immediate retaliation, but these are not normal circumstances. The murder took place at the weakest moment for the Rizzuto family."

Montreal police are not commenting on their progress.

"We can't say at what stage the investigators are right now," said Montreal police spokesman Constable Daniel Lacoursière.

Julian Sher, an investigative reporter who covers organized crime, said there appears to be a "wait-and-see" attitude in Montreal's underworld community.

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"Traditionally, if there is no obvious sign of retaliation or revenge, it's a sign that [the hit]was sanctioned inside. It could also mean, if it was done from outside, that the ones who did it are just too powerful and no one is going to go up against them."

"Sometimes, not responding sends as powerful a signal as responding."

The speculation so far centres on the attack coming from street gangs taking advantage of the weakened Rizzuto clan.

While the hit man was described by witnesses as a dark-skinned man, it wasn't known for whom he was working.

It may have been the killer was a gun for hire. In August 2006, one of its captains Domenico Macri was ambushed by two gunmen riding a motorcycle, ,while driving near the home of acting godfather Francesco Arcadi.

A few hours later, a call between two Rizzuto followers, Giuseppe Torre and Ray Kanho, was intercepted on a police wiretap.

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Mr. Kanho asked whether the hit was done by white or black men. "Mr. Torre said it was black men but that didn't mean anything because everyone hires those people," according to an RCMP court affidavit.

Nevertheless, Frictions between the Montreal Mafia and Haitian street gangs aren't a new phenomenon.

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