Jussie Smollett, a black, openly gay actor best known for his work in Fox’s “Empire,” was assaulted in Chicago by two people carrying a noose and an unidentified “chemical substance” in what police are calling a “possible racially-charged assault and battery.”
Smollett, 35, was walking on the 300th block of E. North Lower Water Street around 2 a.m. local time on Tuesday, “when two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim.”
The police could not confirm the gender of the offenders nor identify the chemical substance.
“At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victims neck,” the statement continued.
Eventually, the offenders fled the scene, and Smollett transported himself to Northwestern Hospital “and is in good condition.”
TMZ reported that Smollett was discharged Tuesday morning. The hospital could not confirm this detail but told The Washington Post that Smollett is not currently a patient.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” police said.
Statement on #ChicagoPolice hate crime investigation. We are taking these allegations very seriously and encourage anyone with information to report anonymously to https://t.co/yYAqzcVIfu pic.twitter.com/DxipALHXaz
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 29, 2019
Smollett’s publicist did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Smollett began his career as a child actor, along with his siblings who include actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell. He is best known for playing Jamal Lyon on “Empire.” The character is a gay R&B musician who has faced homophobic criticism from his mogul father.
The character struggled with his sexuality before coming out in a buzzed-about Season 1 episode. The plot development led to widespread speculation about Smollett’s sexuality. A month later, Smollett appeared on “Ellen,” where he confirmed he is gay.
“It was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet, there’s never been a closet that I’ve been in,” he told host Ellen DeGeneres. “I don’t have a closet. But I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home. So that’s why I choose not to talk about my personal life. But there is, without a doubt, no closet I’ve ever been in. And I just wanted to make that clear.”
He more directly addressed his sexuality in a 2016 interview with Out magazine. Though Smollett said he was open to falling in love with anyone, he said he identifies as a gay man.
“I am a gay man. I am a gay man. I am a gay man. I don’t know how many times I have to say that,” he told the magazine.
“Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world,” GLAAD told the Hollywood Reporter in a statement following the attack.