Tony Award-nominated actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd was killed on Saturday at a house in Atlanta, police confirmed. He was 70 years old. The actor, who is best known for his roles in several Spike Lee films, was fatally shot multiple times, according to Atlanta police spokesman Anthony Grant.
According to media reports, Byrd was found unresponsive early Sunday morning. Paramedics pronounced him dead after reaching the scene. Additional details weren't immediately available. Homicide detectives were investigating, read a statement from the Atlanta police. No arrests have been made yet. Filmmaker Spike Lee has expressed his grief over the tragic death of one of his most bankable actors.
Officers reached the scene after responding to a 911 call from an unknown person who said that someone had been injured there, the Atlanta police statement said. The incident took place around 1.45 am on Saturday at an address southwest of downtown, Atlanta police said in a statement. Paramedics were immediately informed who on arrival pronounced Byrd dead at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds to the back.
His death and the circumstances around it are under investigation. Homicide detectives are "working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident," Grant said. However, no arrests have been made yet and police is still trying to ascertain the reason behind the brutal murder. Police also believe that Byrd probably didn't realize that someone was trying to shoot him as all the gunshot injuries were in the back.
Colleagues Mourn Byrd's Death
A graduate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Byrd made his Broadway debut in the revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, starring alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Carl Gordon, Charles S. Dutton and Stephen McKinley Henderson. He earned a Tony nomination for his performance in the play.
He was also a frequent collaborator with Lee, appearing in eight of his films including 'Clockers', 'Get on the Bus', 'Girl 6', 'He Got Game', 'Bamboozled', 'Red Hook Summer', 'Da Sweet Blood of Jesus' and 'Chi-Raq'. In recent times, he was seen Netflix series adaptation of Lee's 'She's Gotta Have It.'
Lee took to Instagram to pay tribute to Byrd. "I'm so sad to announce the tragic murder of our beloved brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd last night in Atlanta, Georgia," Lee wrote Sunday on Instagram. "Tom is my guy." Actor Wendell Pierce compared Byrd's relationship with Lee to actor Joseph Cotten's with director Orson Welles, who cast Cotten in 'Citizen Kane' and other films in the early 1940s.
Byrd also appeared in the 2004 Ray Charles biopic, 'Ray,' the political satire 'Bulworth' and the F. Gary Gray film 'Set It Off.'