CHICAGO (CBSLA/CBS NEWS) – A series regular on the hit show “Empire” alleges two men shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him and physically attacked him on a Chicago street early Tuesday morning in an incident that police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
The victim, identified by CBS Chicago as 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, was brutally attacked while walking in downtown Chicago at around 2 a.m.
Police officials told CBS Chicago that two suspects yelled homophobic slurs at Smollett before attacking him, pouring a chemical substance on him and then wrapping a rope around his neck.
In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett said his attackers yelled “MAGA country” during the assault, Chicago police confirmed to CBS News.
As of Tuesday evening, police said they had yet to find surveillance video that showed the crime. “Thus far, no video of the alleged assailants or a vehicle has been discovered but we are continuing to broaden our search,” Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter.
Smollett was able to transport himself to Northwestern Hospital in good condition, police said. He has since been released from the hospital.
There have been no arrests in the case so far.
“Given the severity of these allegations, we are taking the investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the Chicago Police Department wrote in a statement. “Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline.”
Smollett has been a series regular on “Empire,” now in its fifth season.
In the show, Smollett plays a gay man, but he also identifies as gay in real life. Show creator Danny Strong took to Twitter to express his support for Smollett:
“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.”
Co-star Vivicia A. Fox also offered her condolences:
“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!”
Other members of the television industry, fans and advocates including the NAACP, GLAAD and the Anti-Violence project took to social media Tuesday to condemn the alleged assault.
NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement the group is “beyond troubled to hear about the recent racist and homophobic fueled attack on NAACP Image Award winner, acclaimed actor and activist Jussie Smollett.”
GLAAD called for the incident to be investigated thoroughly, releasing a statement that read, “Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
Chicago Police said they’re continuing to seek evidence and video in the case to identify possible offenders. So far, police haven’t developed information to be able to put out a suspect description, Guglielmi tweeted Tuesday afternoon. Anyone with information is being asked to submit their tips to www.cpdtip.com.
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