Police: US man in Canadian chemical case threatened police

AP News
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Posted: Jan 22, 2015 2:28 PM
Police: US man in Canadian chemical case threatened police

TORONTO (AP) — A U.S. Navy veteran at the center of an investigation into hazardous chemicals has been charged with uttering threats against police and possessing a dangerous chemical, police announced Thursday.

Police allege 42-year-old Christopher Burton Phillips possessed a chemical called osmium tetroxide for a dangerous purpose.

The discovery of hazardous chemicals prompted the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Halifax this week and an Ottawa hotel where Phillips was arrested.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police were alerted to a suspicious package by a concerned citizen in Halifax, eventually leading to the evacuation of homes Tuesday morning. The package was determined to contain hazardous materials but not explosives, the RCMP said. Five homes elsewhere in Halifax were also evacuated as police found hazardous and volatile materials there as well.

Ottawa police arrested Phillips at the Chimo hotel in Ottawa on Wednesday and linked the arrest to the discovery of the chemicals in Halifax. Police say they found no hazardous materials in the Ottawa hotel.

Court documents allege the offenses took place between Dec. 26 and Jan. 21 in a Halifax suburb. Police did not elaborate on the charges.

Phillips is an ophthalmologist and the ex-husband of former U.S. Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller. The couple divorced in 2006 after seven years of marriage. The U.S. Navy confirmed Phillips served but did not have more details.

A senior Canadian government official said he is a chemist with no known criminal record but was in possession of highly toxic chemicals. His current wife notified police because of her concern about his irregular behavior, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

In 2008, Phillips filed for bankruptcy in Seattle months after suddenly closing his laser eye surgery business. Phillips listed assets of just over $962,000 and liabilities of nearly $4.7 million. In court documents he filed related to his bankruptcy case, Phillips said he was a disabled veteran who was injured and became addicted to painkillers. The document said he continued their use as a physician and his "resulting erratic behavior led to numerous disputes in his personal life."

He described a difficult time in 2008 when he was no longer allowed to practice medicine in Washington State and was required to live apart from his current wife partly because of relationship problems. His lawyer noted in a brief that his wife had moved back to her family home in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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Associated Press writer Phuong Le in Seattle and news researcher Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.