Authorities are still searching for the person responsible for killing a prominent businessman and executive in broad daylight at an Arden Hills gas station Monday.
Kelly Phillips, 48, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner confirmed Tuesday evening. The Mason City, Iowa, native was a longtime executive at Boston Scientific and the co-founder of the popular northeast Minneapolis club Lush Food Bar.
Phillips was fatally shot Monday morning moments after stepping out of a vehicle at a Holiday gas station on West Highway 96, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office said. The suspect shot Phillips multiple times then fled the scene in a dark-colored BMW.
A witness to the shooting told WCCO he saw the gunman shoot Phillips in the back of the head. The suspect then got into a car and drove away, running over Phillips legs on the way.
Phillips was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Jim Phillips, Kelly's father, spoke with the Globe Gazette from his Iowa home. Jim described his son as an avid traveler with a top-notch work ethic.
“He would always have two or three jobs going at the same time in addition to everything else he was involved with," Jim told the paper. "He was just a hard worker and very caring person. He really enjoyed other people and cared about other people.”
Lush, which was closed Tuesday to remember Phillips, released a statement regarding his death:
On behalf of the management and staff of Lush Food Bar, it is with our deepest sympathies that we have to share the tragic death of Lush Food Bar co-founder Kelly Phillips. We would like to extend our sympathies to Kelly’s family; his fiancé Nathon and to his many friends.
Kelly founded Lush Food Bar five years ago and was a driving force in the community; he will be greatly missed and always remembered.
Phillips was about two weeks away from marrying his partner, Nathon Bailey, Jim Phillips told the Globe Gazette.
Authorities searching for suspect
The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office asked for the public's help locating a single suspect at this point: 44-year-old Lyle Marvin "Ty" Hoffman (pictured at right), who co-founded Lush with Phillips in 2009. The sheriff's office notes nobody has been charged with a crime yet.
In addition to being business partners, Phillips and Hoffman reportedly had a romantic relationship. Lavender Magazine wrote about Lush when it opened, noting Hoffman and Phillips were “life partners.”
The Star Tribune spoke with Phillips' former wife, Kathy Simon, with whom he remained close even after they split up two decades ago, she said. She described Hoffman as, initially, a nice, fun guy. But as the relationship soured, she said Hoffman became "resentful," and advised Phillips to get a lawyer, she told the paper.
The Pioneer Press, citing court documents, says Phillips had been leasing or renting an apartment to Hoffman in a house near Lush. But in April, Hoffman was evicted from the space.
Hoffman's half-sister, Dawn Gominsky, told the paper he felt betrayed – he did not own any of Lush Food Bar like he had believed, only worked there, she explained; and then ended up getting kicked out of what he believed was his home.
"My brother is not a monster," she told the Pioneer Press. "He is a wonderful, smart, good man who was pushed over the edge."
Anoka County-Blaine Airport searched
Authorities searched the Anoka County-Blaine Airport Tuesday afternoon in connection with Phillips' murder.
According to FOX 9, SWAT teams cleared two hangars at the airport, but did not find a suspect.
The dark grey BMW authorities were searching for was found Monday night in Blaine.
Active in the community
Friends, elected officials and prominent community voices remembered Phillips as an active participator – someone who knocked on doors to garner support for marriage equality rather than simply donating money here or there, Minnapolic City Council member Jacob Frey told the Star Tribune.
Boston Scientific released a statement saying Phillips "will be remembered not only for his great skills as a lawyer, but also for his kindness, gentleness and ability to make those around him feel better about themselves. He will be sorely missed by his many friends here at Boston Scientific."
Others took to social media to express their grief over his death, and gratitude for his work.
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