Thomas Jefferson Byrd was allegedly fatally shot in the back, according to Atlanta Police.
TMZ reported that the Atlanta Police Department responded to a call reporting an injured person on Oct. 3, 2020 at 1:45 a.m. Byrd was found with multiple gunshot wounds to his back and was unresponsive at the time first responders arrived. According to TMZ, the investigation into his death is ongoing.
The Guardian reported that paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene on the city’s south-west side where he lived. Atlanta Police spokesman Anthony Grant said in a statement that homicide detectives were working to determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting and declined to provide further details.
Director Spike Lee announced the news on his Instagram.
Spike Lee took to his Instagram account the night after Byrd was killed. Spike Lee and Thomas Jefferson Byrd had worked on many movies together.
He wrote, “I’m So Sad To Announce The Tragic Murder Of Our Beloved Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd Last Night In Atlanta,Georgia. Tom Is My Guy,Here Below You See Him As The Frightening Character Errol Barnes In CLOCKERS. Brother Byrd Also Did His Thang In My Joints- CHI-RAQ,SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS, RED HOOK SUMMER,BAMBOOZLED,HE GOT GAME,GET ON THE BUS,GIRL 6 And CLOCKERS. May We All Wish Condolences And Blessings To His Family. Rest In Peace Brother Byrd.”
He then posted two of his favorite scenes from Clockers involving Byrd, one of which graphically shows his character getting shot in the chest.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd was best known for his roles in films directed by Spike Lee.
Byrd was born and raised in the state of Georgia and went on to attend Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in education, Pop Culture reported. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he then attended the California Institute of the Arts where he received a master’s degree in dance.
After his time as a student, he began to work as an actor, primarily in Spike Lee films such as Clockers, Bamboozled, Get on the Bus and Red Hook Summer.
In 2003, Byrd was nominated for a Tony Award.
While Thomas Jefferson Byrd made a name for himself by working in numerous Spike Lee films, he also pursued a career in theater, appearing in many plays including one in which he was nominated for a Tony Award, the highest honor a stage actor can receive.
He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play in 2003 for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He also appeared in the award-winning “Spunk” with the San Diego Repertory Theater, according to his IMDB profile.
While movies and stage-acting were at the forefront of his career, Thomas Jefferson Byrd also appeared on television, including appearances in In the Heat of the Night, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Mama Flora’s Family.
Fellow actors are mourning the loss of Byrd on social media.
When the news broke about Byrd’s death, actors who worked with him began to remember and grieve the loss of their friend on social media.
Academy-Award winning actress Viola Davis opened up on Twitter about the loss of Byrd. Viola is appearing in the 2020 film adaptation of "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" — the play that he received his Tony nomination for.
“Oh no!!! 2020! 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,” she tweeted.