Christmas Village security guard killed man at LOVE Park, police say

Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Christmas Village is preparing to open its array of shops and food vendors later this month.
PHOTO: Russ Brown Photography 

A security guard at Center City’s Christmas Village has been charged with murder in connection with a fatal shooting Tuesday night at LOVE Park, police said.

When officers were called to the park, near City Hall, at around 8:45 p.m., they found 29-year-old Ryan Groff suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Groff, who is from the Lancaster area, died a short time later at Jefferson University Hospital.

Investigators said Groff was trying to access a section of the plaza that was off-limits due to the construction of the village, which is not scheduled to open until later this month.

Thomas Gregory, 43, a guard employed with a private security contractor, confronted Groff and then walked to his Jeep SUV, grabbed a black duffel bag and pulled out an unlicensed handgun, authorities said.

Thomas GregoryPHOTO: Philadelphia Police

He fired at least two rounds before returning to his vehicle and fleeing the area, according to Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore.

Vanore said detectives recovered a significant amount of video evidence and spoke to several people who witnessed the shooting.

A supervisor at the security company picked up Gregory, who had returned home, at around 10:45 p.m. Tuesday and drove him to police headquarters, authorities said.

Gregory is being charged with murder, weapons violations and related crimes, according to police. His attorney could not be identified Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters Gregory should not have been armed as part of his duties and indicated that he was not legally permitted to own a gun due to his criminal history.

“We are doing everything we can to immediately, quickly and fully cooperate with all local authorities in this active investigation,” organizers from the Christmas Village said in a statement. “In light of this incident, we are evaluating the overnight security protocols and working with PPD to ensure overnight presence at Christmas Village in the interim. We are dedicated to providing a safe and welcoming experience and have done so for over a decade. We contract with a private security company and have done so every year.”

Police did not provide the name of the security contractor.

The village, an array of shops and food vendors that show up seasonally at LOVE Park and around City Hall, is preparing to open for a preview weekend Nov. 20, with a full opening set for Thanksgiving Day.

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