Atlanta Man is Arrested For Murder of Spike Lee’s Friend and Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd

by Quentin Blount
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Officers have made an arrest in the shooting death of actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd, according to the Atlanta Police Department.

Bryd, 70, was a popular actor and is famous for his work with director Spike Lee. Byrd and Lee worked on many projects including “He Got Game,” “Get on the Bus” and “Clockers.” He was also a Tony Award-nominee as a stage actor.

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Earlier in the month, investigators proposed a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the homicide.

Upon following up on evidence and tips from citizens, investigators identified Antonio Demetrice Rhynes, 30, as the main suspect in Byrd’s homicide investigation. Police said the shooting stemmed from an argument near the actor’s home in southwest Atlanta. Byrd was shot several times in the back and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police issued a warrent for Rhynes’ arrest on Wednesday. He was eventually brought into custody “without incident” Friday morning at the Royal Oaks Apartments along North Camp Creek Parkway.

Rhynes is now looking at a felony murder charge. Police say it’s unclear whether or not Rhynes has retained legal counsel at this time.

The murder suspect has multiple arrests in the past in Fulton County according to online records. Some of his previous charges include armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and hijacking a motor vehicle.

News of Arrest Was Bittersweet for Thomas Jefferson Byrd’s Family

News of Rhynes’ arrest was twofold for Shannon Byrd-Crossley, a theater teacher and artist, who said she did not know the suspect. While she is grateful for the efforts of Atlanta police and investigators, she says it won’t bring back her father.

“Any progress that is made, we are thankful for it,” said Byrd-Crossley. “I do feel great relief. But at the same time, it doesn’t bring him back.”

The famous actor leaves behind his son, Thomas IV, five daughters, Aria, Carmen, Kalah, Shannon Byrd-Crossley and Desaree Murden, five grandchildren and his ex-wife.

“I realized that God’s gift to me was my dad and the way he loved me and the way that he made me feel — that I was the smartest, most capable, most beautiful person in the world,” Murden said. “I could do anything, even say something trivial. And he would be like, ‘Girl, you are so smart.'”

Byrd’s family and loved ones held a memorial service earlier this week at Hillside International Truth Center in Atlanta. The was also an online stream of the ceremony for hundreds more to see.

Outsider.com