Christopher Phillips arrest: no hazardous materials found at Ottawa hotel

Police say no hazardous materials were found at an Ottawa hotel where a man initially suspected of carrying two dangerous chemicals from Nova Scotia was arrested Wednesday morning.

RCMP issued internal note about biochemical weapons specialist after N.S. evacuations, sources say

Christopher Phillips arrested

8 years ago
Duration 3:07
RCMP suspected man was travelling with hazardous chemicals to Ottawa

Police say no hazardous materials were found at an Ottawa hotel where a man initially suspected of carrying two dangerous chemicals from Nova Scotia was arrested Wednesday morning.

Nova Scotia RCMP issued an internal communication Tuesday about Christopher Phillips, who lives in the Halifax area, identifying him as a biochemical weapons specialist, who was formerly in the military, with possible mental-health issues and considered "anti-police," sources confirmed to CBC News. 

A suspicious package containing hazardous chemicals was found Tuesday in the garage of a home in the Halifax suburb of Cole Harbour with suspected links to Phillips.

RCMP also received a call from Phillips's wife saying he was en route to Ottawa. 

Police believed Phillips might have been carrying two dangerous chemicals to Ottawa:

  • Osmium, a precious metal.
  • Osmium tetroxide, a highly poisonous and volatile chemical that can penetrate skin easily and should not be handled without a fume hood.
The Chimo Hotel in Ottawa was the scene of the arrest of Christopher Phillips on Wednesday morning. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Ottawa police evacuated the Chimo Hotel at 1199 Joseph Cyr St. on Tuesday night and closed off the surrounding roads as a precaution after they received word at about 10:15 p.m. ET of the potential threat posed by Phillips, who had checked into the hotel.

About 90 guests were moved to two nearby hotels starting around 1 a.m., according to the company that owns the hotel.

Police said Phillips was arrested outside his sixth-floor hotel room around 8:20 a.m. ET Wednesday after a few hours of communicating with them.

The police force's hazardous materials team, tactical team and the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive team attended the scene.

A Canada-wide warrant had been issued on Wednesday morning, according to Cpl. Greg Church of the Nova Scotia RCMP.

Ottawa police said just after 3:15 p.m. ET their crews had finished investigating and found no hazardous materials at the hotel or any further reason to fear for public safety. They also said no chemicals were found in Phillips's van.

Ottawa police Insp. John McGetrick said Wednesday afternoon that they don't yet know what Phillips was doing in Ottawa, but the information they received about the dangerous substances was "very concerning."

"The investigation is ongoing so it's difficult to comment, but certainly there's been no information received to this point that there's any terrorist intention," he said.

Evacuations in Nova Scotia

An RCMP release identified Phillips as an ex-military biochemical weapons specialist from the U.S. (Facebook)
RCMP sources earlier told CBC News the Ottawa investigation was linked to the evacuation of two Halifax area neighbourhoods on Tuesday after hazardous chemicals were found.

Police issued evacuation orders for 20 homes in Cole Harbour around the garage linked to Phillips and another five homes on Old Dyke Road in Grand Desert, N.S., about 15 minutes east of Dartmouth.

Church said a home in Grand Desert contained "hazardous and volatile chemicals." As of Wednesday night, the evacuation orders remained in place.

Police are unsure how many chemicals are inside, or the purpose of the chemicals.

Nova Scotia RCMP have called in their explosives disposal unit, Halifax Regional Police Forensics Identification Section, the hazmat team and Emergency Health Services to further investigate.

Mounties from Nova Scotia will travel to Ottawa to interview Phillips. McGetrick said Phillips will likely be taken back to the Maritimes.

Phillips is the ex-husband of gymnast Shannon Miller, the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history, whose achievements included winning seven Olympic medals. Phillips and Miller divorced in 2006.

Miller's manager, Nick Furris, told The Canadian Press that Miller was told by police that her ex-husband had been arrested.

"Upon hearing the recent news surrounding Christopher Phillips, my prayers immediately go to the safety of those around him," Miller said in a statement.

RCMP in Nova Scotia have said they will provide an update on the case at 2 p.m. ET Thursday. They have not released any information about any potential charges against Phillips.

With files from The Canadian Press


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