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Entertainment & Arts

Jussie Smollett recovering from attack as Chicago police look for persons of interest

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett hospitalized after he was targeted in possible hate attack
“Empire” star Jussie Smollett in May in New York City.
(John Lamparski / TNS)

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett is on the mend at home as Chicago police widen their investigation of the assailants who attacked the actor and musician early Tuesday morning.

“He is out of the hospital and home recovering,” a spokesman for the actor told The Times on Wednesday.

Chicago Police Department detectives expanded their search Tuesday evening for cameras to provide photos of the offenders, who are believed to have carried out a hate crime against the gay black entertainer in an affluent, downtown Chicago area earlier that day.

By Wednesday, detectives located a surveillance camera showing potential persons of interest wanted for questioning, according to a tweet from Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi.

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A community alert with photos is being constructed and will be disseminated to the public, Guglielmi added. Earlier in the day, Guglielmi said that the department broadened its search but had not yet recovered video of the alleged assailants or a vehicle.

The department continues to investigate the incident, which police described as a possible hate crime that involved two offenders yelling racial and homophobic slurs at the 36-year-old, hitting him in the face, pouring “an unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapping a rope around his neck.

The outcry has been fast and furious, as many of Smollett’s friends, fans and activists condemned the attack, as well as the reports that alleged the assailants hurled a “MAGA” comment at the actor — a reference to President Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.

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According to Sgt. Cindy Guerra, a CPD spokeswoman, the initial police reports had no mention of the MAGA comment that had been widely reported. However, when detectives followed up with Smollett later in the day, he recalled the offenders making MAGA comments and detectives completed a supplemental report, Guerra said. She could not confirm the exact quotes.

The FBI is also investigating the case because a threatening letter targeting Smollett’s race and sexual orientation had been mailed to Fox Studios in Chicago before the attack.

Representatives for Smollett and the Chicago FBI did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment.

Also Wednesday, TMZ reported that security for the cast of the Fox musical series had been increased following receipt of the threatening letter; however, Smollett had declined additional around-the-clock protection before the attack occurred. The actor reportedly has missed shooting on the Chicago-based series, which is now airing its fifth season, as he recovers from his injuries, but is expected to return soon.

However, Fox temporarily suspended production on the show, as well as that of its mid-season legal drama “Proven Innocent,” because of the subzero weather in the Windy City on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the show told The Times.

Smollett’s “Empire” costars were among the many showing their support for the actor on social media.

“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,” actress Taraji P. Henson, who plays Smollett’s mother on the show, wrote on Instagram on Wednesday, and promoted Smollett’s visceral 2017 song decrying racism and inequality, “F.U.W.”

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“@jussiesmollett is pure love to the bone AND THAT IS WHY SO MANY ARE FEELING HIS PAIN BECAUSE IT IS OUR PAIN!!!” Henson wrote. “I tell you one thing HATE WILL NOT WIN!!!! My baby is resilient and love still lives in him.”

Also on Instagram, former “Empire” actress Grace Byers wrote that, “It’s indisputable that one of Jussie’s purpose-gifts is the ability to unify through love. It’s who he is.It’s what he does.His blazon of light can never -and will never -be diminished, quelled or subdued.This despicable act only shamefully reveals how deeply the diseases of hatred, inequality, racism and discrimination continue to course through our country’s veins.”

“Empire” creator Lee Daniels also decried the attack and referred to Smollett as his son on Tuesday. The showrunner also briefly posted and deleted a video-chat screengrab of his conversation with Smollett, who had visible injuries in the photo.

Follow me: @NardineSaad


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