05 October 2020 12:35
Actor, 70, died of multiple gunshot wounds in the early hours of Sunday The actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd, known for his roles in Spike Lee films, has been shot and killed in Atlanta, police have said. 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.
Police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant said the 70-year-old was found unresponsive with several wounds in his back. Responding paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. Byrd was known for his work in films by Oscar-winning director and producer Lee, including Clockers, He Got Game, Chi-Raq, Bamboozled and Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. Lee paid tribute to Byrd in several Instagram posts, sharing some of his favourite scenes of the actor and recalling how he "did his thang" in his films. "May we all wish condolences and blessings to his family," Lee wrote in one post.
In another, he said: "May Brother Byrd Be Flying Through Those Heavenly Pearly Gates. Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis said she had "loved working" with Byrd, and described him as "a fine actor" in posts on social media. Byrd, also a stage actor, was nominated for a Tony award in 2003 for his performance in the Broadway revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, co-starring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S Dutton. The story has also been brought to Netflix in a film starring Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in August. Images showing the star in his final role were released by the streaming service last week. Spike Lee and Viola Davis have led celebrity tributes to Thomas Jefferson Byrd, the actor who was shot dead in Atlanta on Sunday (4 October). The 70-year-old star, who was best known for his work with director Lee, died of multiple gunshot wounds in the early hours of yesterday morning, the Atlanta Police Department confirmed. Byrd was a long-time collaborator of Lee's, working with the filmmaker on eight movies from 1995 to 2015, including Clockers, Girl 6 and Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. He was also a renowned theatre actor, earning a Tony nomination in 2003 for his Broadway debut in a revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Paying tribute to Byrd, Lee wrote on Instagram that he was "so sad", adding: "Tom Is My Guy… May We All Wish Condolences And Blessings To His Family. Rest In Peace Brother Byrd." Davis added: "Oh no!!! Whaaattt!!! Loved working with you Byrd. What a fine actor you were. So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family. So very sorry." Wendell Pierce tweeted: "Thomas Jefferson Byrd was an actor in the unofficial repertory company of Spike Lee movies. What Joseph Cotton was to Orson Welles, Byrd was for Spike. The 'everyman' character actor. He was a part of the Black Arts Renaissance of Fort Greene in the 80s." Pierce noted he had the "honour" of sharing the screen with Byrd in Get On The Bus and Ray. 'Get On the Bus' (Rex Features) "Byrd was brave, funny, creative, country, smooth, expressive, and a joy to be around," he added. "He will be remembered for those iconic moments in films that make up a unique canon in American cinema. Another soulful brother gone." Comedian Jay Washington tweeted: "Rest In Peace to the legendary Thomas Jefferson Byrd… I had the honour of working with Mr. Byrd in CHI-RAQ." "Such a tragedy," added Perez Hilton. Police found Byrd after responding to a call about an injured person at a residence in Georgia city. Emergency services were called to the scene, where they identified the actor and declared him dead from multiple gunshot wounds in the back. Thomas Jefferson Byrd has sadly died aged 70 (Picture: Getty Images) Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd has tragically died at the age of 70 after being shot in Atlanta. The actor, who was good friends with Oscar-winning director Spike Lee, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the back according to Atlanta police spokesman Anthony Grant. Grant told the New York Times that Byrd was found 'unresponsive' at 1:45am on Saturday before being pronounced dead. Police have stated their investigation is preliminary at this stage and is subject to change. Lee, 63, first broke the news in an Instagram post which said: 'Our Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd As Da Pimp "SWEETNESS" Of Coney Island In HE GOT GAME. Photo By David Lee. Advertisement 'May Brother Byrd Be Flying Through Those Heavenly Pearly Gates. AMEN.' Byrd was best known for starring in seven of Lee's movies, including He Got Game (1998), Clockers (1995), Get On The Bus (1996), Bamboozled (2000) and most recently Chi-Raq (2015). He also worked with Jamie Foxx in the Oscar-winning Ray Charles biopic Ray, and with Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah in Set It Off. Nasser Metcalfe, who was a friend and former publicist of Byrd's, told the publication that in recent years, the actor had 'became more introspective'. Byrd had starred in seven movies directed by Spike Lee (middle) (Picture: WireImage) Jefferson (front left) starred in Lee's Get On The Bus in 1996 (Picture: Columbia Pictures/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com) Metcalfe added: 'He was on a path of spiritual self discovery, so to speak, more so than trying to book the next job. 'There was no limit to his generosity. That's who the man was.' Byrd, who was born in Florida, graduated from Morris Brown College, a historically black and liberal arts school, after obtaining a degree in education. He then earned a master of fine arts in dance from the California Institute of Arts before launching his successful acting career. It is not clear whether Byrd has been survived by any relatives. Got a showbiz story? If you've got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us [email protected], calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we'd love to hear from you.