Jussie Smollett attack: Family releases statement, pictures of possible persons of interest released

Friday, February 1, 2019
Jussie Smollett attack: Family of 'Empire' actor releases statement
"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's family released a statement in support of him Thursday, the day after Chicago police released photos of "possible persons of interest" in his alleg

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's family released a statement in support of him Thursday, the day after Chicago police released photos of "possible persons of interest" in his alleged Streeterville attack.

Smollett's family released the following statement:

"In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice. Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time. We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed. We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country. Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such. They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable. Make no mistake, words matter. Hateful words lead to hateful actions. Radical love is the only solution, but passivity will be our downfall. We, as a family, will continue to work for love, equity and justice until it reigns supreme in our nation and all over the world.

With love & gratitude,

The Smollett Family"

Chicago police photos late Wednesday of two "possible persons of interest" in the alleged attack against the actor. The photos show two silhouettes on New Street near Illinois between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Chicago police released two surveillance images of "potential persons of interest" in the alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett

At about 2 a.m. 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," according to CPD spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi.

RELATED: Surveillance video shows potential persons of interest in attack, Chicago police say

Smollett told police the attackers struck him in the face and poured a chemical on him, as well as wrapping a rope around his neck before running away. He contacted police about 45 minutes after the attack. When police responded he was still wearing the rope around his neck, Guglielmi said.

The chemical substance is believed to be bleach, but it is being confirmed by independent testing. Smollett took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Police confirmed they spoke to a woman who lives in Smollett's building who told them she saw a man with a rope near their building an hour or so before the attack.

Police are still counting on the public to come forward with information and said no tips have come in since releasing the images.

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.

RELATED: 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett attacked in Chicago in possible hate crime, police say

President Trump also condemned the attack.

"I can tell you it's horrible. I've seen it. Last night. It's horrible. Doesn't get worse," Trump said.

The Center on Halsted in Lakeview, which serves the city's LGBTQ community, said they're standing in solidarity with the actor and other victims targeted because of hate.

"We at the center are really pushing and advocating for his healing, and sending him love. But it is a conversation that we need to have because it happens in our community, in our own backyards, in our country, way more than people think," said Mariah Emerson, Center on Halsted.

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.

Chicago police confirmed they have spoken to Moore and his account is noted in the police report. Police said Moore and Smollett both said they were on the phone with each other at the time of the attack. Police said they can't verify that because Smollett refused to give them his phone.

CPD said a dozen detectives are pursuing new leads, including the grainy photos. Police said they have tracked Smollett's movements that night. They confirmed video shows Smollett walking across the street from the two possible persons of interest. Police said in the video he walks out of frame for about a minute and reappears on another camera "wearing a rope like a neck tie."

Police said there is no video of an assault. Investigators said he walked into an apartment building, passing security and boarding an elevator. He would then enter an apartment and that's where police were eventually called.

Prior to the attack on Jan. 22, Smollett had received a letter threat sent to the FOX studio in Chicago which had threatening language and was laced with powdery substance, likely Tylenol. The FBI is investigating that threat.

Anyone who has information pertinent to the investigation should call Area Central at 312-747-8382. Tips can be submitted anonymously at www.cpdtip.com.

A $2,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the conviction of the attackers, said community activist Andrew Holmes. He said that information can be confidentially passed along by calling 800-883-5587.