UPDATED: The Chicago Police Department has released two images from surveillance video of “potential persons of interest” in the alleged attack of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
“Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member,” the Chicago PD’s chief communications officer tweeted alongside the photos. “While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed.”
Smollett’s music manager also confirmed that he was on the phone with the actor at the time he was attacked in Chicago early on Tuesday morning, and that he heard some of what transpired.
The manager, Brandon Z. Moore, told Variety that he gave his account to police authorities, but declined to go into details because it is an active investigation.
The attack is being characterized as a possible hate crime, and involved two men yelling out “racial and homophobic slurs” at Smollett, pouring an “unknown chemical substance” on him, and wrapping a rope around his neck, according to the Chicago Police Department. In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett also told investigators that he heard attackers shout “MAGA country.” MAGA stands for Make America Great Again, President Trump’s campaign slogan.
Moore told Variety that he heard those words being used. “I heard that clearly. I heard the scuffle and I heard the racial slur,” he said.
Guglielmi said that Smollett recalled the use of the ‘MAGA country” phrase “to detectives during their initial followup investigation. They were not made initially to responding officers but detectives completed a supplemental report with the updated information.”
Smollett transported himself to Northwestern University hospital and was listed in good condition.
According to ABC News, an earlier threat had been made in letter form to Smollett prior to Tuesday, and that investigation has now been handed over to the FBI.
The incident drew widespread condemnation in Hollywood as well as from a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is running for president, wrote on Twitter that Smollett “is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery. This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”
A potential 2020 presidential contender, former Vice President Joseph Biden, wrote that “what happened today to
@JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”
Smollett’s upcoming Saturday concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood has not been canceled, though details are still being determined.