Security Guard for Christmas Village Setup Shoots, Kills Man in LOVE Park

Philadelphia police say a man who was working security for the Christmas Village construction at LOVE Park shot and killed a man

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What to Know

  • Ryan Groff, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was shot and killed while at Philadelphia's iconic LOVE Park Tuesday night.
  • Philadelphia police said Gregory Thomas Sr. shot Groff after retrieving a gun from his Jeep, which was parked nearby.
  • At the time of the shooting, Thomas was working security detail for the construction of the annual Christmas Village in the park, police said.

A security guard working detail for the construction of the annual Christmas Village at Center City's well-known LOVE Park across from Philadelphia City Hall shot and killed a man Tuesday night, Philadelphia police said.

Ryan Groff, 29, was found shot multiple time shortly before 8:45 p.m. in the park at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Police officers who were nearby at the time of the shooting rushed him to a nearby hospital, where Groff died a short time later.

The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, man -- whose brother said was trying to start over in Philadelphia -- had become involved in some sort of altercation with 43-year-old Gregory Thomas Sr. prior to the shooting, police said. Thomas was working as a security guard for a private security company that was hired by the organizers of the annual Christmas Village, which is under construction, city officials said.

The suspected shooter then "retrieved a black duffle bag" from his Jeep, which was parked nearby, police said in a news release. "The offender then removed a handgun from the duffel bag and shot the decedent multiple times."

Brad Berner/NBC10
A man was shot numerous times in Love Park, Philadelphia, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

Police said that witnesses helped investigators figure out what may have happened in the moments leading up to the shooting in the iconic park.

Groff was walking around in and near the park for at least an hour before being shot, investigators said.

Groff was trying to enter a restricted area at the time, police said Wednesday afternoon.

After the shooting, the suspected gunman hopped into the 2007 Jeep SUV and drove off down JFK Boulevard, police said.

Later on Tuesday night, the operations manager for the security company made contact with Thomas and then took him to the police department's homicide unit, police said.

Thomas was charged with murder and related charges. It was unclear if Thomas had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

An exact motive for the killing wasn't clear.

A spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney called the deadly shooting at LOVE Park rare:

“While isolated incidents like this sometimes occur in the city’s most visited neighborhoods from time to time, such as Center City, the vast majority of crime — particularly violent crime — is concentrated in more economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

Kenney said that there are too many guns in the city.

"Everybody's got a gun and that's what happens when everybody's got a gun," Kenney said.

As of Wednesday morning there were at least 473 homicides in Philadelphia, up 11% from the same time last year, which was ultimately one of the most deadly years on record in the city.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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