“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized after a possible homophobic and “racially-charged assault and battery,” Chief Anthony Guglielmi of the Chicago Police Department said in a statement Tuesday.
The attack is being investigated as a hate crime, according to a press release sent to USA TODAY.
“Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline,” the press release stated. “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 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com.”
According to police, Smollett was walking on Tuesday when two unknown offenders approached him and started yelling “racial and homophobic slurs.” The offenders then used their hands to batter the victim and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. One of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck.
Smollett then transported himself to Northwestern Hospital, according to police. He is in good condition.
20th Century Fox Television, which produces “Empire” and Fox Entertainment, which airs it, commented on the incident In a statement to USA TODAY Tuesday.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our ‘Empire’ family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice,” the statement read. “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.”
USA TODAY has reached out to Smollett’s rep for comment.
Smollett, who plays gay character Jamal Lyon on “Empire,” joined the hit Fox show in 2015. He also starred in the 2017 film “Marshall.”
During an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in March 2015, Smollett came out as gay himself. He expanded upon his sexuality in an interview with Out Magazine in 2016.
“I am a gay man with an extremely open heart … If I had to label myself, I would label myself as a gay man,” he told the magazine at the time. “If I fall in love down the road with a woman, I’m going to love that woman.”
Smollett in his own words: ‘Empire’ star is as ‘honest as possible’
Support for Smollett following the attack began pouring in through social media Tuesday, including from his boss, “Empire” creator, Lee Daniels, and co-star Vivica A. Fox.
“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!” Fox tweeted.
“It’s taken me a minute to come to social media about this, because Jussie, you are my son. 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, (expletive, (expletive),’ or whatever they said to you,” Daniels said.
“You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that,” he added. It starts at home, we have to love each other – regardless of what sexual orientation we are.”
Daniels concluded: “No racist (expletive) can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up Jussie, I’m with you I’ll be there in a minute.”
John Legend also tweeted his support.
“Sending love to Jussie and the Smollett family after this horrific attack,” he said in a tweet. “We support you and pray that you find peace and justice.”
Sending love to Jussie and the Smollett family after this horrific attack. We support you and pray that you find peace and justice.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 29, 2019
Zendaya also sent her love to Smollett.
“This is heartbreaking and terrifying…please pay attention to what’s happening here. Sending all my love to @JussieSmollett,” she tweeted.
Wanda Sykes also tweeted, writing, “I’m pissed. Love you @JussieSmollett and your family.”
Kerry Washington sent prayers for Smollett.
“DEAR GOD! Prayers and justice for Jussie Smollett,” she tweeted.
DEAR GOD! Prayers and justice for Jussie Smollett.
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) January 29, 2019
Shonda Rhimes urged her followers to rise up against incidents like this.
“We ALL have a responsibility to rise up against the ignorance and hate out there. If you know who did this to @JussieSmollett, REPORT THEM TO THE POLICE,” she tweeted.
Margaret Cho also sent her love.
“No words. Love to you @JussieSmollett,” she tweeted, adding several heart emojis.
As did Billy Eichner, tweeting, “This is so awful. Sending love to @JussieSmollett.”
Jenny Han called the incident “beyond horrifying.”
“My heart goes out to @JussieSmollett,” her tweet continued.
Josh Gad also tweeted his support for Smollett.
“This makes me sick. @JussieSmollett we are all with you today my friend. Sending unlimited love your way,” he said. “My heart breaks for you and a country where this kind of this can still happen on a regular basis.”
Howard, ex-wife reunite: ‘Empire’ star proposes to ex-wife three years after divorce
‘Empire’ actor acquitted: Morocco Omari found not guilty on domestic violence charge
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2019/01/29/empire-star-jussie-smollett-assaulted-possible-homophobic-attack/2709986002/