Atlanta law enforcement have a suspect in custody for the murder of actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd. The frequent Spike Lee collaborator was found dead around 1:45am in Atlanta on October 3rd. The veteran actor had been shot several times in the back, his body located near his home. Lee was tghe first to report the news on social media, stating, "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 then went on to celebrate some of the movies they did together over the years.
Earlier this week, Atlanta homicide detectives obtained an arrest warrant for 30-year old Antonio Demetrice Rhynes on a felony murder charge. They obtained the warrant based on "evidence and tips from the public," and he was arrested early Friday morning. A $10,000 reward had been posted in order to get any information about the murder of Thomas Jefferson Byrd, which seems to have been effective. Rhynes is currently being held in Fulton County jail.
Shortly after the murder of Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Craig Wyckoff, who is a friend and former representative of the 70-year old actor, revealed some more information about the incident. Wyckoff claims that he spoke to friends who told him that Byrd had previously gotten in an argument at the store with someone he did not know. Wyckoff alleges, "that person must have followed him home." Atlanta law enforcement would neither confirm nor deny that this helped in their case. However, it is expected that more information about the murder will come to light in the near future, now that a suspect has been arrested.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd worked with Spike Lee on numerous projects over the years including, Clockers (1995), Girl 6 (1996), Get on the Bus (1996), He Got Game (1998), Bamboozled (2000), Red Hook Summer (2012), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), and Chi-Raq (2015). "Byrd was brave, funny, creative, country, smooth, expressive and a joy to be around," said actor Wendell Pierce, who appeared with him in Get on the Bus. "What a fine actor," said Viola Davis. "Loved working with you Byrd...So sad your life ended this way."
In addition to working with Spike Lee, Thomas Jefferson Byrd was also a stage actor. He received a Tony Award nomination for his 2003 Broadway appearance in a production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which is now a Netflix movie featuring the late Chadwick Boseman, which releases later this year. After starting his career on the stage, his first appearance on the big screen was in Lee's Clockers. He went on to have roles in Ray, Set It Off, Brooklyn's Finest, and Bulworth. Byrd has also been seen in a lot of television shows like Mama Flora's Family, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Living Single. As of this writing, Spike Lee has not commented on the arrest of Antonio Demetrice Rhynes. TMZ was the first to break this story.