CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago police said on Wednesday they would soon release images of “persons of interest” in the assault of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in which two men yelled racial and homophobic slurs and wrapped a rope around his neck.
The 36-year-old African-American actor, who is gay, was not seriously hurt in the Tuesday incident, which police were treating as a possible hate crime.
The images came from a surveillance camera near the attack, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted.
The two men approached Smollett on the street in the early hours of Tuesday, yelling racial and homophobic slurs, then hit him in the face, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing, police said.
A representative for Smollett did not respond to requests for comment.
“Empire,” a hip-hop musical drama series, from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc premiered on television in 2015. Its lead actress, Taraji P. Henson, won a Golden Globe Award in 2016 for her role and the show has received multiple Emmy Award nominations. Smollett plays the character Jamal Lyon, a member of the family that is the focus of the show.
Surveillance video captured potential persons of interest in the attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett in the Streeterville neighborhood, Chicago police said Wednesday afternoon.
Chicago police released the photos late Wednesday. The photos show two silhouettes on New Street near Illinois between 1:30am and 1:45am Tuesday.
At about 2am Tuesday, Smollett, 36, reported he was walking alone in the 300-block of East North Water Street when two people he didn't know started yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him, police said. He told Chicago police that the attackers yelled "MAGA country," Guglielmi said.
Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. A dozen detectives are working on the case and had reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance video before finding the images of the potential persons of interest. Chicago police said they would like to bring the two people in for questioning.
"Obviously the alleged statement of what happened here is horrific and there's no place for it in the city of Chicago," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a Wednesday evening press briefing about the city's response to historic cold.
Brandon Z. Moore, Smollett's music manager, said he was on the phone with the actor when he heard some of the attack, and heard the words "MAGA country."
"I heard that clearly. I heard the scuffle and I heard the racial slur," Moore told Variety.