The murder happened at the old Budd Company complex in the 2300 block of Hunting Park Avenue in the Tioga-Nicetown section at around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Police say two men drove a vehicle inside and began to steal copper. They were loading up to leave when a gunman appeared and attacked.
"As they were leaving an unidentified male, with a gun, attempted to rob them of this copper. A struggle ensued and the decedent was shot multiple times," said Capt. James Clark of the Philadelphia Police.
One man was shot in the back while trying to run away. That man, identified as 28-year-old Clinton Brunson of Camden, died on the porch of a row home nearby.
His accomplice drove the car through the garage door of the warehouse but was soon found by police in the bullet-riddled car - still loaded with copper.
Police have not yet released that man's name. He said "I didn't do it" as he was lead into the police station to face charges of burglary and theft.
The gunman in this case remains at large.
Dean Cafiero bought the abandoned complex a year ago. Police say the two million square foot set of buildings, which have been empty for 12 years, has been a frequent target for bandits looking for copper. The metal sells at a high price at scraps yards - where few questions are asked.
"These were thugs who are coming in to steal copper, to steal whatever they can steal," said Cafiero.
Cafiero has big plans for the old Budd plant. On the other side of the complex is a touch of Hollywood - a production company is building a massive set for M. Night Shyamalan's latest science fiction feature entitled "After Earth." It will star Will Smith.
"There's a lot of positive things happening here and for a couple of bad apples to come here and do what they did it's not right for everybody else," Cafiero said.