Young man killed in police shooting leaves 'trail of broken hearts' in his wake, family says

Though his last moments were violent and chaotic, Phillip Blair was a gentle, well-adjusted young man who whose death leaves "a trail of broken hearts for those who knew and loved him," his family says

Phillip Blair, 27, was employed as a welder and had no criminal record

Phillip Blair, 27, was killed May 6 following a vehicle chase and armed confrontation with RCMP on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway south of Leduc, Alta. (Supplied)

The last moments of Phillip Blair's life were violent and chaotic. 

He was driving a BMW north on the wrong side of Highway 2, pursued by half a dozen police vehicles. His car was hit from behind and swung sideways. 

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said RCMP video showed the driver step out of the car armed with a 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun. ASIRT said he immediately raised the gun and pointed it at the officers surrounding him. 

There was a brief exchange of gunfire. One Mountie was injured. 

Blair died at the scene. 

His heartbroken parents, family and countless friends have refused until now to say anything publicly about the death. 

Robin Blair contacted CBC News by email to talk about his son.

"Phillip was a gentle mannered, well-adjusted young man who was always pleasant and a joy to be around," his father wrote. "He grew up in a middle-class family where he was always loved and nurtured."

The 27-year-old was employed as a welder with a Red Deer company. His father said he loved his job and his trade. 

"At the time of this event, he was in a loving, stable relationship with a beautiful, loving partner," Robin Blair wrote. "They were looking forward to a long, happy life together."

Phillip Blair celebrating the 102nd birthday in 2017 of his late grandfather Arnold. (Phillip Blair/Facebook)

According to RCMP, Phillip Blair had never been in trouble with police before. He had no criminal record. His father said he was not a hard drug user, but he thinks drugs led to the violence.

"The family believes that on the evening of May 5 he visited a friend who was going through a break-up to offer support," Robin Blair wrote. "Sometime during the evening, he engaged in a recreational drug activity unwittingly resulting in the use of a laced substance. 

"The unknown substance caused delusional, paranoid and violent behaviour never before exhibited by Phillip," his father said.

'He shot a hole in the wall and in the TV'

Phillip Blair lived in a house in Blackfalds with his girlfriend, her sister and another female tenant. 

On May 6, RCMP responded to that house at 8:15 a.m. after receiving a 911 call about a gun complaint. 

An RCMP vehicle was hit by gunfire while responding to a gun complaint last week in Blackfalds, Alta. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Neighbour Bob Howell described what he saw from his window. 

"I see an RCMP car pull up and then he went down to the end," Howell said. "Then I heard two gunshots. Then there was another cop car come in and he parked at the end of the street. That was the one that got the windows shot out."

RCMP did not fire any shots. A shot from Blair's gun hit a woman who was looking out her bedroom window.

Howell saw three terrified women from the Blair house running down the street. He let them into his home, where they stayed for the next two hours. During that time, Howell said, they told him what had led to the panicked call to police.

"He'd been out drinking and apparently he got into some dope," Howell said. "He came home with another guy. But the other guy disappeared as soon as the guy started arguing. And he shot a hole in the wall and in the TV, and that's when the girls took off."

Howell said he tried to keep the women calm, but said Blair's girlfriend was inconsolable.

"She was in bad shape. She was really shook."

The girlfriend did not respond to an email from CBC News. 

Howell said he was told it was out of character for Blair to use drugs.

"It was only sort of a one-time thing, the way I understand. He got into drugs and was drinking."

Though police tried to stop Blair when he left the house, he drove off in the BMW. RCMP caught up with him again on Highway 2.

An RCMP spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing, but no criminal charges will be laid as a result of the Blackfalds gun complaint. 

ASIRT says this firearm, described as a 12-gauge, semi-automatic, tactical-style shotgun, was recovered from the scene where Phillip Blair was killed in an armed confrontation with police. (ASIRT)

"The investigative team will not be releasing details on the substantive offences committed by the deceased," Cpl. Laurel Scott said.  "There is likely to be a fatality inquiry."

Robin Blair believes a toxicology report will substantiate the family's belief about the role drugs played in the events.

"This tragic event is a reminder to us all that in spite of certain drugs being legal, the risk to your health and life, the health and safety of others, and society as a whole is always at risk when you take any form of non-prescribed drug," he wrote. 

'A trail of broken hearts' 

On behalf of the family, Robin Blair expressed "deep regret and sadness" for the harm his son's actions caused that day. 

"To the innocent bystander, police and many motorists placed at risk, we wish you well on your journey to recovery from these life-changing events," he wrote. "Left in the wake is a trail of broken hearts for those who knew and loved him." 

It is not the first time tragedy has struck this family. 

Phillip and Rochelle Blair in an undated Halloween photograph. (Phillip Blair/Facebook)

Robin Blair and his former wife, Denise, had two children — Phillip and his older sister, Rochelle. 

In November 2009, Rochelle died in a single-car crash in Field, B.C. Two days earlier, she had celebrated her 19th birthday. A memorial Facebook site has nearly 1,000 members. 

Rochelle's mother regularly posts on the site to express her grief over the death of her daughter.

Rochelle Blair died in a car crash in 2009. Her brother Phillip had her name tattooed on his arm. (Phillip Blair/Facebook)

Now she's lost her other child.

One of the photos on Phillip Blair's Facebook site was of his tattooed arm that read, "Rochelle Blair. Always loved, never forgotten." 

Robin Blair concluded his email with a request. 

"Due to the unexpected, tragic nature of this event," he wrote, "Phillip's family and loved ones would ask for privacy while they grieve their tragic loss."


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston was an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father.