STREETERVILLE — “Empire” star Jussie Smollett reported being brutally attacked early Tuesday in a racially-charged ambush in Downtown’s Streeterville neighborhood, authorities said.
Chicago Police only said the 36-year-old victim of the early morning attack was an actor on “Empire,” but TMZ reported it was Smollett, who plays main character Jamal Lyon on the show. “Empire” films in Chicago.
According to police, the victim said he was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street at 2 a.m. Tuesday when two people went up to him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, police said. The attackers then beat him, hitting his face and pouring an unknown chemical on him. TMZ reported it was bleach.
At one point, the victim told police one of the attackers put a rope around his neck, police said.
The attackers ran off and the victim took himself to nearby Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was in good condition, police said.
“This is MAGA country,” the attackers reportedly told Smollett during the incident, according to TMZ.
TMZ said the attackers were two white men who wore ski masks. They got Smollett’s attention by yelling, “Aren’t you that f—– ‘Empire’ n—–?” before beating him and pouring bleach on him, according to TMZ.
Smollett’s “Empire” character is gay.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” Chicago Police said in a statement.
On Tuesday afternoon, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officers have reviewed dozens of cameras in the area and are still going through the footage in an effort to find any evidence of the attack that can help police create a description of the attackers.
“We have not been able to find that as of yet,” Guglielmi said.
On Tuesday night, Guglielmi said police expanded their search area for cameras in an effort to provide photos of the alleged attackers.
“Thus far, no video of the alleged assailants or a vehicle has been discovered but we are continuing to broaden our search,” he said.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “a letter containing an anti-gay epithet and white powder” were mailed to the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where “Empire” is filmed, last week. The powder was not determined to be dangerous, but the FBI is investigating.
Police urged anyone with information about the attack to call detectives at 312-747-8382.
GLAAD, an organization devoted to helping LGBTQ people, said in a tweet that “this attack must be investigated thoroughly” and noted acts of violence against LGBTQ people have increased.
“Our hearts are with @JussieSmollett today,” the organization tweeted.