Thomas Jefferson Byrd was pronounced dead after suffering "multiple gunshot wounds to the back," police said

By Benjamin VanHoose
October 04, 2020 05:15 PM
Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock; Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

Spike Lee is remembering Thomas Jefferson Byrd after the 70-year-old actor was fatally shot over the weekend.

A spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department provided preliminary details to PEOPLE, stating that officers responded to a 911 call about an injured person on Saturday at 1:45 a.m. local time. Upon arrival, officers found a man laying "unresponsive at the location."

The victim, later identified as Byrd, was pronounced dead at the scene, having suffered "multiple gunshot wounds to the back."

"Homicide detectives responded to the scene and are working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident. The investigation continues at this time," police said on Sunday.

Reacting to news of Byrd's death, director Lee, 63, paid tribute to the actor, who starred in several of the Oscar-winning director's films, including Chi-Raq (2015), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), He Got Game (1998) and Clockers (1995).

Byrd was also known for his roles in 1996's Set It Off and 2004's Ray.

Credit: Winter Coleman/©Variance Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

"I’m So Sad To Announce The Tragic Murder Of Our Beloved Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd Last Night In Atlanta, Georgia," Lee wrote on Instagram. "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," the filmmaker added. "May We All Wish Condolences And Blessings To His Family. Rest In Peace Brother Byrd."

Byrd was nominated for a Tony Award in 2003 for his stage performance as Toledo in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The same August Wilson play has been adapted into a movie version, which will hit Netflix later this year, and stars Viola Davis and late actor Chadwick Boseman in his final role.

Boseman, who starred in Lee's most recent film Da 5 Bloods, died in August at age 43 after a years-long battle with colon cancer.

"We filmed Da 5 Bloods in Thailand, and it was hot, jungles, mountains, and Chadwick was there with us all the way. I never, ever suspected that anything was wrong. No one knew he was going through treatment, chemotherapy," Lee wrote in a tribute to Boseman after his death, later calling him a "trooper."