American actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd has been murdered after he was shot several times in the back, according to reports.

The 70-year-old, who appeared in several Spike Lee films, was found dead in Atlanta, Georgia, according to the Oscar winning director.

Lee announced the news, sharing a photo of Byrd as character Errol Barnes in his 1995 crime film, Clockers.

He said: "I’m So Sad To Announce The Tragic Murder Of Our Beloved Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd Last Night In Atlanta, Georgia."

As well as Clockers, Byrd also appeared in Lee 'joints' Get on the Bus, Bamboozled, He Got Game, Red Hook Summer and Chi-Raq.

Atlanta Police Department officials reportedly told TMZ that officers responded to reports of a person injured at 1.45am on Saturday.

American actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd has been killed, aged 70, after receiving gunshot wounds

Byrd was reportedly found unresponsive. Paramedics pronounced him dead from multiple gunshot wounds to the back.

Murder detectives are reportedly working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident, according to Variety.

An investigation is said to be ongoing.

Atlanta Police Department told the publication that the information is preliminary in nature and could change as the investigation continues or new information comes to light.

As well as film, Byrd was also a successful theatre actor.

He was nominated for Broadway's 2003 Tony Award as Best Actor for a revival of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

He also starred in numerous regional stage productions - including the San Diego Repertory Theater's award-winning performance of Spunk.

Byrd received a bachelor of science degree in education from Morris Brown College and later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from California Institute of the Arts.