A man who was injured in a murderous attack at Sicilian Sidewalk Café in Little Italy on Monday was an innocent bystander who was caught with a stray bullet, police say.
The man was sitting close to murder victim John Raposo, 35, on the packed patio at 3.32 p.m. on Monday at the popular ice cream shop at College St. and Montrose Ave. He was caught in the stomach with at least one bullet.
“He was just a patron of the café,” Const. Victor Kwong of Toronto police said on Wednesday.
The bystander was admitted to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Police haven’t released his name.
A police officer who specializes in GTA organized crime said that Raposo escaped an attempt on his life five years ago, which left one of his friends dead.
On Monday, someone inside the café likely tipped off the hitman that Raposo was at the café watching the Italy-Ireland soccer game, the organized crime officer said.
The gunman fired approximately five times, catching Raposo at least once in the head.
“It was a thought-out, planned hit,” the police officer said.
The organized crime specialist said if Raposo was afraid of death, he didn’t show it.
The officer noted that Raposo was close friends with mobster Eddie (Hurricane) Melo, who was shot to death in an underworld hit in April 2001 in a plaza near Hurontario St. and the QEW.
Melo was worried that someone might plant a bomb under his car, and Raposo voluntarily started it for him, the officer said.
“People would say that Raposo was crazier than Eddie,” the police officer said.
Melo, a former professional boxer, was considered by police to be an enforcer for Montreal mobster Frank (Santos) Cotroni.
After leaving pro boxing, Melo made money through extortion and gambling machines as well as through mining stock promotion.
Raposo was considered to be fearless, even though he stood about 5-foot-6 and wasn’t trained as a fighter.
“He was not a boxer,” the police officer said. “He was not a martial artist and he was not a big man. But he wouldn’t back down.”
As Raposo’s family planned his funeral on Wednesday, an elderly woman showed a distinct lack of respect to the murdered man, carrying off a small bouquet of white carnations from a makeshift memorial outside the yellow police tape.
“No English,” she said when asked why she was taking away the flowers.
Police asked area residents to check their properties for any items that may have been discarded by the killer.
If any items are located, police ask that they not be touched and that the finder call police immediately.
Flanked by family members and local shop owners, and reading from a prepared statement, Sicilian Ice Cream shop CEO Maria Galipo offered condolences to the victims’ families.
“We are deeply saddened that an event like this could have happened in such a safe and family-oriented community.”
The incident, inflicted, she said, on an unsuspecting family business and its patrons, “is not a reflection of our neighborhood.”
Galipo said the ice cream shop will open again in the next day or so.
And that her father and his brothers opened the cafe in 1959. “We have not moved in 50 years and we intend to remain a vital part of the neighborhood.
“Ours is a family business: all of us put our heart and soul into running our cafe. And it’s like a family for the 40 people we employ here during peak summer season.”
Galipo went on to say that if an isolated act of violence keeps people away from the cafe, the violence wins.
“But I know we’re better than that . . . Summertime is here. The patios are open. Euro 2012 is on . . . It’s been difficult these past few days but we have to get back to some sense of normal.”
Nicknamed “Johnny Maserati,” Raposo was scheduled to appear in court on an assault charge in two weeks.
Friends described Raposo as a family man and car lover, who often wore sunglasses and whose vehicles included a BMW and Porsche.
His wife was expecting their second child at the time of the murder.
Besides the assault charges, he was scheduled to go on trial in December on charges of dangerous operation of a vehicle.
Charges of aggravated assault, possession of stolen goods and failure to comply were withdrawn in the 1990s.
The hitman is described by police as a 6-foot white man with shoulder-length blond hair and a medium build. He wore a white hard hat, an orange safety vest with fluorescent green “X” on the front and back. His face was covered with a white filter mask.
When he was in his late teens, Raposo was friendly with a member of the Loners Motorcycle Club known as “Joe the Meatman,” but he never joined the club.