Lyle “Ty” Hoffman allegedly shot his former romantic and business partner last month as the man pleaded for his life. Then he disappeared.
Sunday, suddenly, he may have burst back into view.
Blaine police believe the fugitive walked into a TCF Bank at 2:01 p.m., brandished a handgun and fled with an undisclosed amount of money containing a red dye pack that likely exploded.
On Monday, surveillance video of a bearded robber drew police back to Hoffman’s last known whereabouts — the Anoka County-Blaine Airport and other parts of the north metro. Searches ran past sunset.
“I’m here to tell Minnesota we feel there is an armed and dangerous killer on the loose,” said Gary Schiff, president of the Council on Crime and Justice and a friend of Kelly Phillips, the business partner who was killed. “You’ve seen what Ty Hoffman is capable of, and we want this to come to a conclusion without any further danger or violence to the community.”
In August, law enforcement officials scoured the north metro when they found a car linked to Phillips’ murder parked near the airport. In the past couple of weeks, authorities had expanded their search outside state and national borders as the reward fund for Hoffman’s arrest hit $25,000.
On Monday afternoon, Ramsey County deputies and Blaine police in bullet-resistant vests and armed with rifles again searched the airport building by building for Hoffman. Later in the day, dozens of officers using dogs searched past nightfall in a wooded area near Westwood Elementary School on the Blaine-Spring Lake Park border, wrapping that search up about 8:30 p.m.
Hoffman, 44, is wanted in connection with the Aug. 11 shooting death of Phillips, 48, an attorney and Boston Scientific vice president and owner of the Lush nightclub in Minneapolis. Phillips was to marry Nathon Bailey on Aug. 30, but instead, friends and family held a private memorial for him that day.
Hoffman allegedly shot Phillips three times at an Arden Hills Holiday gas station. He has been charged via arrest warrant in Ramsey County District Court with one count of intentional second-degree murder.
Police said Hoffman looks like the man who robbed the TCF Bank at 331 County Road 10 NE. Authorities wouldn’t say how much money he took.
Blaine Police Chief Chris Olson said the suspect fled on foot, but it’s unclear whether he continued on foot or escaped in a vehicle. The area around the bank is a mix of commercial and residential development.
Ramsey County Sheriff’s Inspector Rob Allen said the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the murder, had been “keeping our eyes open in Blaine, but we were also looking nationally and internationally.”
“We’re asking Minnesota for help,” Schiff said. “To stay vigilant, to stay aware and to help the family and friends of Kelly Phillips and Nathon Bailey to find peace.”
‘We have to find him’
Schiff said he and others who knew Phillips were shocked to learn that Hoffman was still possibly in the metro area. The former Minneapolis City Council member spoke to reporters Monday at Gold Medal Park on the Minneapolis riverfront.
“Law enforcement from the beginning has stated concerns that someone may be helping him,” he said. “I hope that’s not true. I think today is a renewed sense of concern about the case. He is armed, he is dangerous and we have to find him.”
Schiff said he had known Phillips for about five years, since Schiff was on the City Council and Phillips and Hoffman applied for a liquor license for Lush Food Bar. Schiff said he stayed friends with Phillips when he and Hoffman went their separate ways.
Hoffman and Phillips opened Lush, a gay bar in northeast Minneapolis, in 2009. Hoffman worked at the bar, while Phillips’ involvement was financial.
Friends and family members have said that Hoffman and Phillips’ personal and business lives grew acrimonious in recent years.
Phillips’ ex-wife, Kathy Simon, who remained a close friend to him, has said that there were money conflicts after the two broke up about three years ago. The two men continued their business relationship until several months ago; Hoffman was fired from Lush and told that he had no legal stake in the bar. Phillips also had evicted Hoffman earlier this year from a northeast Minneapolis residence that he owned across the street from the bar.
Hoffman’s sister, Dawn Gominsky, has said that Phillips had pushed her brother to the brink with those two moves.
Olson said Blaine residents should stay mindful of unusual things or people in their neighborhoods. “If they see something … that doesn’t belong in their yard or on their property, they should call on that,” he said. “If they see someone who is suspicious … call 911 immediately and do not approach the person.”
Crime Stoppers and Phillips’ friends have raised $25,000 in reward money in the case.
Anyone with information about the bank robbery is asked to call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.