Thomas Jefferson Byrd , nominated for Tony Award and also known for his work in Spike Lee films, was found dead in a fatal shooting in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend.
At 1:45 am on Saturday, officers responded to a call and found the 70-year-old “lying unresponsive at the location. Grady EMS responded to the scene and pronounced the male deceased from multiple gunshot wounds to the back” stated police spokesperson Anthony Grant.
Byrd, who had worked on popular Lee films including Chi-Raq, Clockers, Sweet Blood of Jesus, Red Hook Summer, Bamboozled, He Got Game, Get On the Bus and Girl 6, was pronounced dead at the scene on the city’s south-west side, where he lived.
Director Spike Lee’s favourite “frightening character” of Errol Barnes in Clockers, Byrd was highly praised for his work in August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as “a singular pleasure in the role of Toledo, the verbally fastidious piano player who dispenses nuggets of African history and homegrown philosophy.”
Mourning the sudden demise of the actor, Lee said that he was sad to announce the death of the “Late Great” actor and recalled the actor’s best moments on screen in a series of Instagram posts.
Following Lee’s tribute, several friends and fellow actors of Byrd took to social media to convey their condolences to his family.
“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,” said American actor Wendell Pierce.
The actor’s death is currently under investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident; officials have said that the information of the shooting is preliminary in nature and could change as the investigation progresses.