Chicago police investigating report of assault on ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett
Chicago police said Tuesday they received a report of a “possible racially-charged assault and battery” involving an actor on the television show “Empire.”
Police say two people approached a 36-year-old man at about 2 a.m. Tuesday as he was walking and got his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs. The man was hit and an unknown chemical substance was poured on him, according to police.
A rope was wrapped around the man’s neck before both suspects fled the scene, police said. The man took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is said to be in “good condition.”
Fox network representatives identified the man as Jussie Smollett, who plays gay musician Jamal Lyon on “Empire.” In a statement, the network said it is “deeply saddened and outraged.” “We will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own,” the statement read.
Representatives for Smollett, who has said he also identifies as gay, did not immediately return a Tribune request for comment.
“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,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.
“Empire,” which premiered on the Fox network in 2015, is a musical drama that films in Chicago for most of the year. The series stars Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson and Bryshere Gray.
“Empire” co-creator Danny Strong tweeted, “I’m deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks against JussieSmollett. He is a kind and profoundly talented soul whom I respect with all my heart. The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live … 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.”
GLAAD, an organization that monitors representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the media, said in a statement that it had reached out to Fox and Smollett’s team “to offer assistance as well as support for him. Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
Area Central Detectives are asking anyone with information to call (312) 747-8382 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com