Jussie Smollett, who plays “Jamal Lyon” on Empire, came out as gay in 2015. According to TMZ, he was attacked in Chicago early Tuesday morning, in what cops are investigating as a homophobic hate crime.
According to The Blast, Smollett was walking out of his Chicago apartment when the attack took place. TMZ reports that he was attacked by two men wearing ski masks to conceal their identities and that they put a noose around Smollett’s neck and poured bleach on him. His rib was fractured and he was hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, but he has since been discharged.
Chicago police released two photos of what they called “people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member.”
At around the time of the reported attack, Smollett posted a series of photos on Instagram announcing his arrival in Chicago (where he lives). In the caption, he wrote “#Mood after spending 7 hours on a plane for a 2 hour flight but finally landing all good. Love y’all. Goodnight” He also promoted his upcoming show in Los Angeles on February 2. He has not commented on the attack on social media, but many fans wrote in the comments of his most recent post that they were sending prayers and hoping he was okay once news of the attack spread.
Police Are Investigating it as a Possible Hate Crime
Anthony Gugliemli, Chief Communications Officer for Chicago PD, shared the police statement on Twitter, which said: “Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire.” It also revealed that they are “taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime.”
They have not yet identified any possible suspects, but working to gather video evidence and witness statements, and encourage anyone with relevant information to call Area Central Detectives or report tips anonymously.
His Friend Called 911 After the Attack
According to The Blast, the dispatcher received a call around 2:30AM from someone who said their friend “was assaulted when he walked out of his apartment.” Smollett was described as someone who is “supposed to be well known.”
TMZ adds that, according to a direct source, Smollett left his apartment at 2AM because he was hungry after traveling, and was planning to pick up food from a nearby Subway.
Smollett Recently Received a Homophobic Letter in the Mail
According to ThatGrapeJuice.net, Smollett received a threatening letter that read, in cut out letters, “You will die black f–.” A drawing in red marker accompanied the homophobic note; the drawing appears to be of a man hanging from a noose, with a gun pointed at him.
In the top left of the envelope, where the return address is usually written, the sender of the letter wrote “MAGA.” According to TMZ, the letter was sent 8 days ago. They also report that Smollett’s attackers yelled “This is MAGA country” when they left the scene.
Smollett Came Out on ‘Ellen’ in 2015
In March 2015, Smollett came out as gay to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres during a taping of her show, on which he was a guest. After they taped his appearance on the show, DeGeneres shared an additional video sitting on a couch backstage with Smollett as he explained to her why it was important to him that she was the one he came out to. He said: “You’ve been such an inspiration to so many, but also to me. What you’ve done in the LGBT community is very much, in my opinion, kind of like what Michael Jackson did with the black community. Just that you are who you are, and he was just Michael, and you’re just Ellen. So it was really important to me to make sure that it got across that that there is no closet. There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in.”
As he continued, he said “I don’t have a closet, but I have a home. And that is my responsibility, to protect that home. So that is why I choose not to talk about my personal life.”