Chicago police probe assault on ‘Empire’ actor Smollett as hate crime

Chicago police probe assault on ‘Empire’ actor Smollett as hate crime

(Reuters) – Chicago police on Tuesday said they were investigating an assault on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett as a possible hate crime after two men yelled racial and homophobic slurs and at one point wrapped a rope around his neck.

FILE PHOTO: 2017 BET Awards – Photo Room – Los Angeles, California, U.S., 25/06/2017 – Jussie Smollett. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

The 36-year-old African-American actor, who is gay, was reported to be in good condition after taking himself to a hospital after the incident early Tuesday, police said.

“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” Chicago police said in a statement.

A representative for Smollett could not be reached for immediate comment. Police did not identify Smollett by name, but gave his age and said he had a role on “Empire.” Other media outlets cited unnamed sources as identifying Smollett as the victim.

Police said the two unknown assailants approached Smollett on the street at about 2 a.m. CST (3.00 a.m. ET) and began a “possible racially motivated” attack, yelling racial and homophobic slurs.

The assailants hit him in the face, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing, police said.

Detectives were gathering video of the area and looking for witnesses.

“Empire,” a hip-hop musical drama series, premiered on Fox Television in 2015 and has been nominated for Grammy and Golden Globe awards. Smollett plays the character Jamal Lyon, a member of the family that is the focus of the show.

Smollett’s colleagues said they were shocked by the attack.

“I’m deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks against @JussieSmollett,” Empire co-creator Danny Strong said on Twitter. “He is a kind and profoundly talented soul whom I respect with all my heart. The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live.”

Reporting by Peter Szekely and Gina Cherelus in New York, Editing by Scott Malone, Franklin Paul and Jeffrey Benkoe

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