Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Actor and Spike Lee Collaborator, Shot and Killed in Atlanta


Officers responded to a call at about 1.45am on Saturday and found the 70-year-old unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds in his back, police spokesman Anthony Grant said in a statement.

Paramedics pronounced Byrd dead at the scene on the city’s south-west side, where he lived.

Grant said homicide detectives were working to determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting and declined to provide further details.

In an Instagram post on Sunday, Lee said he was sad to announce Byrd’s death and recalled how the actor “did his thang” in his films including Clockers Chi-Raq, Bamboozled, He Got Game and Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, among others.

“May we all wish condolences and blessings to his family,” Lee wrote. “Rest in peace, Brother Byrd.”

Lee also shared some of his favourite scenes with Byrd from Clockers and Bamboozled.

Byrd, also a stage actor, was nominated in 2003 for a Tony for his performance in the Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, co-starring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S Dutton.

“Loved working with you Byrd,” the Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis tweeted. “What a fine actor you were. So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family.”

Byrd was a “brilliant dancer, actor, and friend”,” Elisabeth Omilami, a fellow actor and community activist, told WXIA-TV in Atlanta. “He was a special person whose personality filled up the whole room when he entered you knew he was there. He fought his way through this very racist and difficult Hollywood system and was able to maintain a career through it all.”

She said Byrd had only recently finished his last film, Freedom’s Path, with her husband, actor Afemo Omilami.

Actor Lori Petty tweeted: “What a man, what a talent … what a crazy loss.”