The film community is in mourning after actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd was shot and killed in southwest Atlanta, according to police.
Byrd, who is well-known for starring in several films by director Spike Lee and also being a Tony Award-nominated stage actor, was found slain early Saturday morning, Atlanta police confirmed to AJC.com. He was 70.
The call came in from the 2200 block of Belvedere Avenue about 1:45 a.m., according to Atlanta police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant. When police arrived at the location, they found Byrd on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds in his back.
He was pronounced dead by Grady emergency medical services.
Lee lamented Byrd’s death in a post on Instagram Sunday afternoon.
“I’m so sad to announce the tragic murder of our beloved brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd last night in Atlanta, Georgia,” he wrote.
Byrd, who was born in Griffin, received a bachelor’s degree in education from Morris Brown College before studying dance at the California Institute of the Arts. He has starred in numerous films directed by Lee, including “Bamboozled,” “Get on the Bus” and “Sweet Blood of Jesus.”
In 1996, Byrd appeared alongside Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah and Vivica A. Fox in what would become New Line Cinema’s highest-grossing film of the year, “Set It Off.” Luther, the sarcastic, foul-mouthed owner of a janitorial service, is one of Byrd’s most iconic roles.
In 2003, he was nominated for a Tony Award as best featured actor in the Whoopi Goldberg-Charles S. Dutton revival of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on Broadway.
Investigators are not sure what led to the incident and are working to determine the circumstances surrounding the death, Grant said.
“May we all wish condolences and blessings to his family," Lee said.