Thomas Jefferson Byrd, an actor who appeared in several Spike Lee movies, was killed in an apparent homicide early Saturday morning, according to the Atlanta Police Department. He was 70.
“Tom was a brilliant actor whose roles belied the type of person he was," Craig Wyckoff, Byrd's former agent and friend, told TODAY. "He usually played pimps, murderers, bad guys, but in real life he was a gentle soul.”
Police were dispatched to a residence at 1:45 a.m. Saturday morning after receiving a call about an injured person.
"Upon arrival, units located a male lying unresponsive at the location. Grady EMS responded to the scene and pronounced the male deceased from multiple gunshot wounds to the back. The victim was later identified as Thomas Byrd," the Atlanta Police Department said in a preliminary statement.
It's unclear what led to the shooting. Police said homicide detectives are working to determine what happened in the moments leading up to the shooting. Wyckoff told TODAY, “He’d gone to a store last night. He was walking home. When he got home, someone shot him in the back three times.”
Byrd and Lee were longtime collaborators. He appeared in several of the director's films, including “Clockers,” “Get on the Bus,” “Bamboozled,” “Chi-Raq,” “Red Hook Summer,” “Girl 6” and “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.”
He also had roles in Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles biopic “Ray," "Brooklyn's Finest" and "Set It Off." He appeared numerous times on stage as well. In 2003, he received a Tony Award nomination for his performance in the Broadway revival of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," appearing opposite Whoopi Goldberg. (A film adaption is coming to Netflix on Dec. 18, starring the late Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis.)
Lee paid tribute to Byrd in an Instagram post on Sunday, sharing a photo of the actor playing Errol Barnes in "Clockers."
“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," Lee wrote. "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."
TODAY has reached out to Lee's reps for additional comment.
Fans expressed shock and outrage and also shared their condolences and memories of Byrd.
"Errol Barnes rip... was afraid of seeing him after seeing clockers and growing up in gowanus where clockers was shot... good actor rip," one person wrote.
"You have got to be kidding me," another person added. "I can't RIP not one more time this year."