News Canada

Man behind chemical scare educated and troubled

Corey Larocque, QMI Agency

OTTAWA -- Christopher Phillips' checkered past is marked by a stellar academic record and professional success, but it's marred by business troubles and a failed marriage.

The American-born Phillips has a university education in chemistry and biology, did a stint in the U.S. Navy, became an eye doctor and was married to an Olympic gymnast.

Ottawa police arrested Phillips at a hotel Wednesday after Nova Scotia RCMP alerted them he had left Halifax and posed a "threat." Phillips spent his 42nd birthday Wednesday in custody, waiting to be shipped back to Mounties in his home province.

Phillips is charged by police in Nova Scotia with threatening police and possession of a weapon -- the chemical osmium tetroxide -- an expensive oxidant that causes skin, eye and lung damage.

Mounties issued an alert Tuesday night after what Cpl. Greg Church said were "large quantities of chemicals" found during a search at a cottage in Grand Desert, N.S., 40 km east of Halifax.

Information Ottawa police received suggests Phillips might have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Phillips was a member of the United States Navy at one point, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson confirmed. But his service records have been archived, so the military couldn't elaborate on career details, including years of service, rank or specialized skills.

Phillips' LinkedIn profile is an impressive list of academic achievements, indicating a non-stop pursuit of higher learning.

He earned a science degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1992 and stayed in school nearly uninterrupted until 2009. After earning a medical degree in 1999, he specialized in ophthalmology. Phillips then studied law and finance at Suffolk University until 2009.

Phillips married Shannon Miller, an American Olympic gymnast who won seven medals at the 1996 Atlanta and 1992 Barcelona games. They married in 1999 but divorced in 2006. The couple didn't have any children. In published reports, Miller is quoted calling the marriage "a painful experience."

After finishing his medical training, he set up shop as an ophthalmologist in Renton, Wash., southeast of Seattle.

He managed a Lasik eye surgery centre in Renton until 2008 when he skipped town, according to a report from a Washington TV station.

In Washington, he had a reputation as a "noisy neighbour," who had Renton police responding to complaints about parties and loud music, the station reported.

He was licensed to practise medicine in Washington in 2007, but that licence expired while he was facing professional misconduct charges from the state's Medical Quality Assurance Commission. Under an informal resolution of the charges, Phillips agreed not to renew his licence and the commission dropped the charges, hearing documents show.

When the Washington clinic closed, Phillips moved to Nova Scotia and married his second wife, Dr. Gosia Phillips, a Halifax doctor, who runs a sleep clinic. Despite having practised in Washington, Phillips did not register for a medical licence when he moved to Nova Scotia.

Christopher Phillips is not connected with the sleep clinic, said a woman who answered the phone Wednesday, adding the clinic had no comment about his arrest.

When the Sun called their home, a child answered. A woman's voice was heard in the background calling, "No" before the phone was hung up.

The RCMP's Halifax spokesman Cpl. Greg Church said cops from Nova Scotia came to Ottawa and returned Phillips to that province on Thursday.

corey.larocque@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @Corey_Larocque


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