MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A man accused of fatally shooting his former boyfriend and business partner in suburban Minneapolis was arrested Thursday after a month on the run, when police found him on foot peering at a drive-thru menu in another suburb, police said.
Lyle "Ty" Hoffman was arrested without incident at an Arby's restaurant in Shakopee, about 30 miles southwest of the Arden Hills gas station where Kelly Phillips was fatally shot on Aug. 11.
Authorities didn't immediately know how Hoffman managed to elude police for so long, or whether anyone was helping him, but he was found after officers were summoned to check a report of a suspicious man, Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate said.
Hoffman, 44, is charged with intentional second-degree murder in the death of Phillips, 48, an attorney and a vice president for the medical device company Boston Scientific. According to a witness, Phillips was in a BMW that pulled into a gas station about two blocks from his office when the car's driver, after some yelling between the two men, shot Phillips three times and fled in the car.
Hoffman had been the subject of several massive searches in the Minneapolis area, including two around the Anoka County airport in Blaine, about 10 miles north of Arden Hills, and one around a casino south of Shakopee. He also was suspected of a bank robbery in Blaine on Aug. 30.
Phillips' father said his family was elated, adding that the arrest was a relief after a month of "up and down, up and down."
"But we know there's a lot of things ahead that are going to be difficult. At least we can sleep with some relief tonight," said James Phillips, who lives in Mason City, Iowa.
Hoffman was expected to make his initial court appearance Friday.
Authorities are still searching for the handgun they believe was used in the killing, Ramsey County Chief Deputy John Kirkwood said. Citing the ongoing investigation, Kirkwood refused to say what Hoffman had told investigators or if he was cooperating. But he said authorities believe Hoffman had remained in the Twin Cities area and may have been using public transportation.
Kirkwood said anyone who helped Hoffman could face charges. He said he did not know whether Hoffman had an attorney.
The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office initially said Hoffman may have been evading capture by using Craigslist and dating apps, such as Grindr, because he had used them in the past. Inspector Rob Allen, who oversees the office's detectives, said Thursday that they were still investigating whether Hoffman used social media sites to find places to hide.
Tate said an alert citizen spotted a man suspected of being Hoffman in the parking lot at a Shakopee shopping center Thursday morning. The person called police and stayed on the phone with 911 while keeping an eye on Hoffman walking around the area.
"This concerned citizen did everything we asked the public to do," Tate said. "They observed, they reported, they kept our officers updated on the locations of this individual."
One of the arresting officers spotted Hoffman while he was reading the menu at an Arby's drive-thru and went up to talk to him, Tate said. A second officer then arrived. Hoffman acknowledged who he was, said he was not armed and offered no resistance, he said.
Phillips owned Lush nightclub, a bar in Minneapolis that he opened with Hoffman in 2009. While Hoffman worked at the bar, Phillips' involvement was primarily financial. Friends and family have said the men's personal and business lives had strained. Hoffman had been fired from the bar, and Phillips evicted him from a residence he owned across from the club.
Phillips, who had been active in the campaign to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, was due to marry another man on Aug. 30. Instead, family and friends held a private memorial service that day.
A $40,000 reward was being offered in the search for Hoffman.