DOWNTOWN — Two “persons of interest” in the alleged hate crime attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett have been found, police said.
The two “are not yet” suspects, but they were in the area of the alleged attack and are being questioned, said Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago Police spokesman, in a Thursday tweet. Surveillance images of the two were released by police in late January, shortly after Smollett reported being attacked.
Smollett in January said he was attacked in Streeterville by two men who used racist and homophobic slurs. Chicago Police detectives have searched for the attackers and worked to build a case with video records, phone records and physical evidence.
Representatives of Smollett emphasized he is a victim in a statement sent to Out magazine this week. The actor, who stars as the son of music moguls in “Empire,” has faced heavy online criticism since reporting the alleged hate crime, with people accusing him of lying about or exaggerating what happened.
Smollett, who is gay and black, told police he was walking early Jan. 29 in Steeterville when two men yelled slurs, including, “‘Empire’ f—–” and “‘Empire’ n—–,” and hit him. The men also put a noose around Smollett’s neck and poured something on him.
Police asked Smollett and his manager, who Smollett said he’d been on the phone with shortly before the attack, to turn over their phones. Smollett gave investigators “limited and heavily redacted” phone records, according to CBS2.
“Jussie is the victim here, which has been stated by the Superintendent of Police,” the statement said. “Jussie has voluntarily provided his phone records from within an hour of the attack and given multiple statements to police. Chicago PD has repeatedly informed us that they find Jussie’s account of what happened that night consistent and credible. Superintendent Johnson has been clear from day one that Jussie is a victim. We are continuing to work closely with the Chicago PD and remain confident that they will find Jussie’s attackers and bring them to justice.
“Any redacted information was intended to protect the privacy of personal contacts or high-profile individuals not relevant to the attack.”
Earlier this month, Smollett released a statement where he said he was doing “OK” after the alleged attack. He thanked supporters for their “outpouring of love.”