Police release photos of 'potential persons of interest' in reported attack on 'Empire' actor
CHICAGO (Fox 32 News) - Police in Chicago located a surveillance camera Wednesday that shows “potential persons of interest” who are wanted for questioning in the alleged assault of ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett.
Police are hoping someone will recognize the "potential persons of interest" so that officers can speak to them about the reported assault.
Police released the following statement: "Chicago Police detectives have located surveillance cameras that show potential people of interest in the alleged assault and battery that was reported in the 300 block of E. North Water Street (Empire cast member). While the video footage does not depict an assault, the individuals pictured are seen in the vicinity of the alleged criminal incident during the alleged time of occurence. Detectives are taking this investigation seriously and urging anyone with any information on the identity of these individuals to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8380 or anonymously at www.cpdtip.com"
Smollett, who is black and gay and who plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox television show, said two men beat him, subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an "unknown chemical substance" on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing.
Smollett, 36, returned to his apartment Tuesday morning after getting food and his manager called police from there about 40 minutes later, police said. When officers arrived, the actor had cuts and scrapes on his face and the "thin rope" around his neck that he said had been put there by his assailant, he said. Smollett later went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after police advised him to do so.
The FBI is also investigating a threatening letter targeting Smollett that was sent last week to the Fox studio in Chicago where "Empire" is filmed, police said.
Bobby Rush, a Democratic congressman from Chicago, issued a statement calling on the agency to conduct "an immediate and sweeping civil rights investigation into the racist and homophobic attack."
There has been a flood of outrage and support for Smollett on social media. Among the many celebrities and politicians who weighed in was California Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful who knows Smollett. She called the attack "outrageous" and "awful."
Some of the outrage stems from Smollett's account to detectives that his attackers yelled that he was in "MAGA country," an apparent reference to the Trump campaign's "Make America Great Again" slogan, which some critics of the president have decried as racist and discriminatory.
Chicago has one of the most sophisticated and extensive video surveillance systems in the U.S., with thousands of cameras on street poles, skyscrapers, buses and in train tunnels.
Police say the cameras have helped them make thousands of arrests. In one of the best known examples of the department's use of the cameras, investigators in 2009 were able to recreate a school board president's 20-minute drive through the city, singling out his car on a succession of surveillance cameras to help them determine that he committed suicide and had not been followed and killed by someone else, as his friends speculated.
Activist Andrew Holmes offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Smollett’s attack. Holmes said confidential tips can be called in at (800) 883-5587.
More than a dozen police detectives, some specializing in hate crimes, are working the case. They asked anyone who has information or witnessed the attack to call detectives at (312) 747-8382 or submit an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.