In this July 2, 2008 photo, actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd appears during a portrait session in Atlanta. Police say Byrd, known for his roles in many Spike Lee films and who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2003, was shot dead in Atlanta on Saturday. He was 70. (Marcus Yam/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
ATLANTA (AP) — Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd, known for his roles in Spike Lee films, has been shot and killed in Atlanta, police said Sunday.
Police responded to a call around 1:45 a.m. Saturday and found the 70-year-old Byrd unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds in his back, police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant said in a statement.
Responding paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene on the city’s southwest 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 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 favorite 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.
Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis tweeted: “Oh no!!! 2020! Whaaattt!!!”
“Loved working with you Byrd,” she wrote. “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,” she said. “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 just 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.”
Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward as they continue to search for the person who shot actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd in Atlanta.
The reward was announced Tuesday. Police have not identified a suspect in the 70-year-old actor’s shooting death or said why it may have happened.
Robert Calloway told WSB-TV he found Byrd in a yard and ran to a fire station for help. Calloway didn’t know Byrd.
“I thought he had a health issue. He was in the yard,” Callaway said.
Police ask anyone with information to call them or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477, or submit information online at www.StopCrimeATL.com.