RCMP Chief Supt. Dan Malo said Thomas Gisby was killed in a Starbucks in Nuevo Vallarta on Friday night.
He said police are now concerned about retaliation against enemies of the 50-year-old man who was from the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver.
"We wanted to get our message to the community that this wasn't an individual who was simply on holidays," Malo said Saturday. "This is a well-known target, a well-known organized crime figure here in British Columbia."
Gisby led what police called the Gisby Crime Group, which was well connected to other criminal organizations, although Malo declined to name them.
"He has networks internationally to be able to bring illegal commodities into Canada for distribution," Malo said, adding guns and drugs were among the goods Gisby traded.
Mounties were aware that Gisby had travelled to Mexico, said Malo, who is in charge of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
"Even though Thomas Gisby, in his own right, thought that he was at a high-enough level in organized crime that he would be isolated from violence, it's clearly not the case."