January 31, 2019, (SOURCE: BBC News) —
Chicago police detectives on Tuesday reviewed “hundreds of hours” of footage from the city and private cameras in the Streeterville neighbourhood, but did not gain leads on a report of a “possible racially-charged assault and battery” involving a star of the television show “Empire.”
Police said they had not made arrests in the reported attack on Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on Fox’s “Empire.” Tuesday night, detectives were expanding their search area for videos of the suspects or their cars to along the Chicago riverfront.
Police say two people approached Smollett at about 2 a.m. Tuesday as he was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street and got his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs. Smollett is black and openly gay.
Smollett was hit and an unknown chemical substance was poured on him, according to police. A rope was wrapped around Smollett’s neck before the attackers fled the scene, police said.
According to police radio traffic, a dispatcher asked officers to check on a battery report from a caller in an apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street just after 2:30 a.m. A friend of the actor told responding officers that “a noose was placed over the friend’s neck.” Police said Smollett took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is said to be in “good condition.”
News of the attack was first reported by TMZ.com and entertainment site ThatGrapeJuice.net.
As of early afternoon Tuesday, detectives had secured video from the area but had not yet identified any suspects in the attack, a police source said. Detectives would comb through the videos, which include police POD cameras and surveillance from nearby hotels, the source added.
“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.
Chicago police confirmed that a letter containing an anti-gay epithet and white powder were mailed to the Douglas Park neighbourhood Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where “Empire” is filmed, on Jan. 22. The letter addressed to one of the show’s actors, triggered hazardous materials call for fire officials, who determined the powder wasn’t dangerous. The FBI has since taken over the probe into the letter — as it was sent through the U.S. mail service — while Chicago police continue to look into the attack, authorities said.
“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. Smollett plays a gay musician, and he also self-identifies as being gay. He has emerged as an activist for LGBTQ rights and HIV education.
In a statement, the Fox 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 stand united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own,” the statement read. A Fox representative would not say if the incident would affect production on “Empire.”
Representatives for Smollett did not immediately return a Tribune request for comment. CNN anchor Don Lemon said he spoke to Smollett and a mutual friend who went to the hospital with him. Lemon said Smollett confirmed the incident and was shaken and angry. Smollett said he fought back. Meanwhile, #JusticeForJussie trended on social media Tuesday as celebrities weighed in.
“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 cpdtip.com.