PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A 43-year-old security guard working at LOVE Park Christmas Village faces murder charges. Police said Gregory Thomas opened fire and killed Ryan Groff, 29, of Lancaster, Pa., After an altercation in the park.
The Christmas Village is scheduled to open at LOVE Park next week. But this latest incident makes people wonder if they want to be here.
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“I used to feel really comfortable walking everywhere and now I’m uncomfortable and I didn’t before,” said Arienne Thaw, who lives in Center City.
People say they are uncomfortable at one of Philadelphia’s busiest tourist attractions. Thaw and his mother Stephanie have lived in the city center their entire lives, but now they say they are leaving.
“I felt really safe taking the kids to the playground,” Thaw said. “I feel like there’s this underlying rage and it’s not the same.”
Police say Groff and Thomas got into a fight, which led to the shooting.
Thomas worked as a private security guard for the Christmas Village.
“The security guard was guarding a particular area where they build the village,” Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said. “He was trying to get into that area and that’s what started the showdown. So everything he did to get into that area is still under investigation. “
Police say Thomas left and came back with a gun and shot Groff.
More than usual, police details were visible on Wednesday afternoon. The downtown district is also adding 20 unarmed and uniformed bicycle patrols. They were planned before this incident to make people feel safer when they return to work.
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Mayor Jim Kenney says despite this and other incidents downtown is safe
“I think Philly is generally safe,” Kenney said. “There will be a lot of people downtown during the holidays. There is always safety in numbers. It happened at night with a lot less people in the park than usual.
Others rethink their plans in the city center, especially at night
“I’m probably going to question myself and try to do more alternative routes, so hopefully that doesn’t happen in the future,” said Laurence Hodges, who lives in Center City.
The organizers of the Christmas Village have released the following statement which reads in part:
“In light of this incident, we are evaluating overnight security protocols and working with the Philadelphia Police Department to ensure an overnight presence at Christmas Village in the interim. “
Eyewitness News has learned that Thomas is not allowed to carry a gun while working security at Christmas Village.
Eyewitness News is also awaiting news from the organizers of the Christmas Village on whether the contract will continue or not.
For a list of resources on gun violence in Philadelphia, click here.
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Eyewitness News reporter Howard Monroe contributed to this story.