Wife of Christmas Village guard accused of murder: "We are all devastated"

"My kids are devastated. We are all devastated. I pray for the victim," the suspect's wife said.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A security guard for the Christmas Village exhibit at Love Park in Center City Philadelphia has been charged with fatally shooting a man, police say.

Police announced Wednesday 43-year-old Gregory Thomas Sr. has been charged with murder and related offenses in the death of 29-year-old Ryan Groff from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Gregory Thomas Sr.

The incident occurred around 8:40 p.m. Tuesday at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Police say Groff was walking around the park with a blue backpack about an hour before the shooting.

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According to police, the suspect was working security when he became involved in a "disturbance" with the 29-year-old victim.

Action News spoke with the suspect's wife, Latasha Whitmore-Thomas.

She says her husband was on the job when he and his partner tried removing Groff from a restricted area.

"When the partner walked over to the guy and told him to move he said 'we could do this the easy way or the hard way.' The partner said that the guy said, 'I am going to do it the hard way,'" she said.

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According to what Gregory Thomas told his wife, the young man then became enraged.

Whitmore-Thomas tells us, "That's when the guy picked up his bag or whatever it was, bat, brick, whatever, hit my husband in the face. His face shattered."

A short time later, Thomas allegedly went to his personal vehicle, grabbed a gun, walked up to Groff, and shot him in the head, neck, and stomach.

City officials made it clear that Thomas is not a city employee and worked for a private security firm hired by the Christmas Village.

Authorities also say Thomas had previous run-ins with the law.

"He is not authorized to have that gun, and he shouldn't have had it anyway because of his past history," said Mayor Jim Kenney.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Thomas says she's having a hard time reconciling what happened on Tuesday night with the loving father of three she knows.

"He has a kind heart," she said. "He is lovable. My kids are devastated. We are all devastated. I pray for the victim. I don't wish that on nobody. Pray for my family."

Officials from the Christmas Village sent Action News a statement reading, in part, "... We are doing everything we can to immediately, quickly and fully cooperate with all local authorities in this active investigation. 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."

Thomas has been arrested and facing a string of charges including murder.

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