Brother of Love Park shooting victim speaks out: 'I tried so hard to keep him from all the trouble'

The wife of the security guard charged with Ryan Groff's murder says he was attacked before the shooting.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The families of both men involved in a fatal shooting at Philadelphia's Love Park earlier this week have spoken out.

Police say 43-year-old Gregory Thomas Sr. of Philadelphia was working security detail for the Christmas Village in Center City when he got in an altercation with 29-year-old Ryan Groff of Lancaster, Pennsylvania just before 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Police did not go into details about what occurred between the two before the shooting, but Action News spoke with Thomas' wife, Latasha Whitmore-Thomas, on Wednesday who relayed what her husband told her.

According to Whitmore-Thomas, the security guard and his partner were trying to remove Groff from a restricted area as construction was underway for the annual holiday exhibit.

Gregory Thomas Sr.



"When the partner walked over to the guy and told him to move, (the partner) said, 'You could do this the easy way or the hard way.' (Groff) said, 'I am going to do it the hard way,'" Whitmore-Thomas said.

Whitmore-Thomas says her husband told her that Groff became enraged and attacked him.

"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," Whitmore-Thomas said.

A short time later, police say Thomas went to his Jeep, came back with a duffle bag, removed a handgun and shot Groff multiple times.

Groff was taken to Jefferson University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

City officials made it clear on Wednesday 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.

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After the shooting, police say Thomas fled the scene. He was brought into police headquarters by an operations supervisor of the security company around 10:40 p.m. Tuesday.

Ryan Groff's brother Richard lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He told WGAL-TV that his brother was a "jokester."

29-year-old Ryan Groff was shot and killed at Philadelphia's Love Park, police say.

WGAL-TV



"It was the great part about him, it really was. Every moment that I got to spend with him before he went up to Philly, it was awesome," Richard said.

Richard says he tried to keep his brother out of trouble.

"I tried so hard to keep him from all that, all the trouble and things in life, but it just didn't work out that way," Richard Groff said.

As Latasha Whitmore-Thomas tries to comprehend the events involving her husband, a father of three, she prays for Groff and his family.

"(Gregory) 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."

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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.



Richard Groff says his brother was trying to make a difference. He says Ryan Groff, who at one time lived in the downtown Lancaster area, went to Philadelphia to try and turn his life around.

"He was always talking about how he was gonna make it better, but he didn't get a chance to do that," Richard Groff said

Officials with the Christmas Village sent Action News a statement saying, 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 was charged with murder and related offenses.

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