The Chicago Police Department is investigating a brutal attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett. The 36-year-old actor and singer was jumped allegedly by two white men late Monday. It is being treated as a possible hate crime.
“Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire,” police told Yahoo. “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators and we ask anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382.”
If anyone has information and wishes to report it anonymously, they can do so here.
TMZ has disturbing details of the altercation. After arriving home in Chicago from New York, Smollett was hungry and went to a Subway around 2 a.m. As he was leaving, one of the men purportedly yelled, “Aren’t you that f****t Empire n*****?”
The two alleged white men were apparently wearing ski masks and attacked Smollett, who tried to fight back. They put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him. The Fox star was treated for a fractured rib at Northwestern Memorial and discharged Tuesday.
Chicago Police Department confirms to Yahoo that the two unknown offenders approached Smollett “and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him. The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim.”
Police also confirm that one of the offenders wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck. The actor is now in “good condition.”
TMZ reported that the men allegedly yelled, “This is MAGA country,” referring to the slogan “Make America Great Again.” A Chicago Police Department spokesperson told ProPublica that “if it happened, it was not reported to police.” However, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi then confirmed to ABC7 in Chicago late Tuesday that Smollett told police about the attackers yelling the MAGA line. Guglielmi added that when Smollett contacted them around 2:42 a.m. he was still wearing the rope around his neck. Police plan to analyze it as part of their investigation.
It appears the attack might have been premeditated. According to photos obtained by the blog ThatGrapeJuice.Net, Smollett received a threatening note eight days ago. It was addressed to Fox Studios in Chicago with cut out letters spelling, “You will die black f**.”
Yahoo reached out to a representative for Smollett but did not immediately receive a response.
On Empire, the actor plays Jamal Lyon, the gay son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres in 2015, Smollett said that although he identifies as gay, he prefers to keep his personal life private.
“It was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet,” Smollett said. “But I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home.”
He continued, “So that’s why I choose not to talk about my personal life. But there is without a doubt, no closet that I’ve ever been in, and I just wanted to make that clear. But it was most important for me to make that clear to you on your show at this time in the world. And that’s where I’m at.”
Well-wishes are pouring in for the beloved entertainer. GLAAD reached out to both Fox and Smollett’s team offering support. Lee Daniels shared an emotional video following the news.
“You didn’t deserve nor anybody deserves to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die f****t n*****’ or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home,” the Empire creator declared. “We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows we are united on a united front and no racist f*** can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie.”
Andy Cohen called the attack “vile.”
Modern Family star Jessie Tyler Ferguson also chimed in.
This is happening. NOW. In OUR country. https://t.co/C1Zxsx9Y9Q
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) January 29, 2019
Vivica A. Fox tweeted she is angry and hurt.
I’m just now hearing the news about the senseless hate attack on my #EMPiRE Nephew @JussieSmollett IM SO ANGRY AND HURT ABOUT THIS! THIS MUST STOP!! SPREAD LOVE NOT HATE! PRAYERS UP TO U NEPHEW! 😢😢🙇🏾♀️🙇🏾♀️ pic.twitter.com/p4GqfNW3An
— Vivica A. Fox (@MsVivicaFox) January 29, 2019
Empire director and screenwriter Eric Haywood tweeted, “I will burn your f***ing house down to protect @JussieSmollett. Write that s*** down.”
Empire co-creator and executive producer Danny Strong penned a message of support for Smollett as well as a warning to his attackers.
…whoever did this, do not forget that you are nothing but hate filled cowards while Jussie’s talent and activism will continue to shine a bright light on to the world for decades to come.
— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) January 29, 2019
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment also released a statement on Twitter.
Security has reportedly been beefed up on the set of Empire as production did not shutdown and is ongoing.
[Editor’s note: This post was originally published Jan. 29, 2019 at 12:53 p.m. ET.]
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