Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd murder suspect arrested in Atlanta

Atlanta police on Friday arrested a 30-year-old man suspected of killing actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd, who appeared in several Spike Lee films, officials said.

Antonio Demetrice Rhynes was arrested in an early-morning raid at an apartment complex and booked into the Fulton County Jail, authorities said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Rhynes has a lawyer or when his first court appearance will be, an Atlanta police spokeswoman said.

The 70-year-old Byrd had been shot several times in the back when he was found at about 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 3 at an address southwest of downtown, Atlanta police said.

Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd at the American Black Film Festival on June 21, 2014 in New York City.Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

His credits in Lee’s movies spanned decades, beginning in 1995 with “Clockers.” He also appeared in “Girl 6,” “He Got Game,” “Bamboozled” and other notable films.

The veteran actor appeared in a recent Netflix adaptation of Lee’s 1986 movie, “She’s Gotta Have it.”

“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 shortly after his death. “Tom is my guy.”

Byrd’s former agent, Craig Wyckoff, called him a brilliant actor whose on-screen roles were at odds with his personality.

“He usually played pimps, murderers, bad guys, but in real life he was a gentle soul,” Wyckoff said.

Actor Wendell Pierce compared Byrd’s relationship with Lee to actor Joseph Cotten’s with director Orson Welles, who cast Cotten in “Citizen Kane” and other films in the early 1940s.

Byrd was the “‘everyman’ character actor,” Pierce said.

Byrd also appeared in the 2004 Ray Charles biopic, “Ray,” the political satire “Bulworth” and the F. Gary Gray movie “Set It Off.”


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