and now the FBI
attack on the
Early Tuesday morning, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked by what has been classified by Chicago police as a possible “Hate Crime.”
First reported by TMZ, the actor was on his way home from a sandwich shop (reportedly Subway) at 2 AM in the Streeterville section of Chicago and was allegedly assaulted by two men wearing white ski masks, yelling racial and homophobic slurs, while tying a noose around his neck and dousing him with a chemical substance which was at first believed to be bleach.
After the attack, Smollett is said to have returned to his apartment, and his manager called police from there about 40 minutes later. When officers arrived, the actor had cuts and scrapes on his face and the rope around his neck that he said had been put there by his assailant.
The attack horrified a nation that has been visibly divided over race. According to initial reports, those close to Smollett also claimed his attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country.”
Smollett’s TV family and his real family have now reacted. His actual family released a statement:
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime.Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
His TV family also reacted to the violence of the attacks:
Taraji P. Henson, who plays Lyons matriarch Cookie, posted on Twitter and Instagram her reaction, “I wish what happened to my baby was just one big bad joke but it wasn’t and we all feel his pain right now. @jussiesmollett is pure love to the bone AND THAT IS WHY SO MANY ARE FEELING…”
49-year-old Oscar nominee, Terrence Howard, who plays Lucious, told Good Morning America that his TV son is angry after the attack. “I heard he’s getting better. You know, he’s angry,” Howard said. “But I know Jussie. Jussie’s anger will dissipate and he will forgive these people for what they did. But he won’t, and we cannot, forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 30, 2019
He continued, “Jussie’s the one that starts singing when everybody’s in a bad mood,” Howard added, “He’s the one that cheers everybody up. He’s the one that does all the Instagrams if he catches you sleeping. Today, no one was caught sleeping. No one even took time to close their eyes and nap. They were all in shock that our family — you know, the Fox family, the Empire family, the Lyon family — were attacked by a bunch of hyenas today.
Even President Trump reacted to the attack, telling reporters that the attack was “horrible” and “doesn’t get worse.”
“I can tell you that it’s horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” Trump said in response to a question on Thursday from April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
But while the attack has captured the nation’s attention and there has been an outpouring of support for the actor, there are also mysterious questions lingering that almost resemble an episode of Empire.
Chicago PD has reportedly combed over hundreds of hours of footage from more than 20 surveillance cameras in the area according to spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. No images have been found showing the alleged attack, but they do have footage of the actor’s trek home in the neighborhood. Smollett is said to have disappeared off camera and then return.
Police eventually released a grainy photo taken from a surveillance cameras, of two “potential people of interest” but stopped short of calling them suspects.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019
Wednesday, Smollett’s manager Brandon Z. Moore, told detectives and the press that he was on the phone with the actor and heard some of the attack, including the “MAGA Country” comment. Yet, as of this point, the actor has refused to turn over his cellphone and share telephone records that could show he was speaking with his manager just as the alleged assault happened.
It’s not immediately clear if Chicago police would seek to obtain those records independently.
A threatening letter was reportedly sent to the African American actor in the days before the Empire actor was attacked in Chicago warranted a HAZMAT team, though the white powder it contained was ultimately found to be aspirin. The letter received Jan. 22 at Cinespace Studios, where the series is filmed, is being investigated by the FBI.
According to TMZ, an anonymous neighbor who lives in Smollett’s apartment building told police that she saw two suspicious men loitering outside the entrance to the building an hour and a half before the Empire actor said he was attacked.
The tenant said she walked out of the building at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday to take her dogs outside and noticed a man near the door, pacing between the parking lot and entrance, who appeared to be holding a rope.
She went on to describe him as a “…white man with scruff on his face, looking agitated, out of place, and smoking a cigarette.” The “creeped out” woman continued to say that the man was staring at another man, who was standing near another entrance to the building about 300 feet away.
UPDATE: Smollett has now spoken out publicly about his attack. In a statement emailed to the Wrap, first obtained by Essence, Smollett says, “Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in a statement emailed to TheWrap, which was first obtained by Essence. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
Smollett also addresses what he calls “inaccuracies and misrepresentations” that have circulated in reports in the days following the attack, including that he and his manager have not provided phone records that would help the Chicago PD investigate Smollett’s case, which the department said on Thursday.
“I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” Smollett continued. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served. “
This is an important case not just because of the nature of the alleged attack, but because it affects the entire close-knit Chicago production commmunity.
Anyone with information is asked to call Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382.