Empire star Jussie Smollett, 35, has been hospitalized in Chicago following a possible homophobic and racist attack, according to multiple reports.
The Chicago Police Department’s incident report said that a 30-something man was walking when two unnamed offenders approached him, yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him. Police say they began to attack him with their fists and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi sent a statement to ET: “Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire. Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators and we ask anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382.”
Celebrities have rallied around Smollett on social media. “I'm just now hearing the news about the senseless hate attack on my #EMPiRE Nephew @JussieSmollett,” Vivica A. Fox shared on Twitter. “IM SO ANGRY AND HURT ABOUT THIS! THIS MUST STOP!! SPREAD LOVE NOT HATE! PRAYERS UP TO U NEPHEW!”
Danielle Brooks tweeted: “They can try to break you physically, but they can't break your spirit. To my friend @jussiesmollett , I love you King. I am praying for you and your family. This is reality. America we must do better.”
John Legend, Shonda Rhimes, Andy Cohen, Ike Barinholtz, Danny Strong, Matt Bomer and Zendaya also extended their support and sympathy.
According to Ebony, Smollett received a “chilling threat” in the mail prior to the attack. The sender cut out letters from a magazine, spelling out, “you will die Black f*g,” accompanying a drawing of a stick figure being hung from a tree with a gun it’s face.
Shortly before his attack, Smollett sent out a feel-good pic on Instagram, captioning it: “#Mood after spending 7 hours on a plane for a 2 hour flight but finally landing all good. Love y’all. Goodnight #WinterVortexIsHurr #ChicagoWeatherAintNoJoke #Smile #troubadourFeb2 #Freedom.”
Smollett discussed his sexuality in March of 2015, telling Ellen DeGeneres on her titular show: “There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in,” he said, addressing rumors about his sexuality. “So that’s why I choose not to talk ‘bout my personal life. But there is without a doubt, no closet that I’ve ever been in, and I just wanted to make that clear, but it was most important for me to make that clear to you on your show at this time in the world. And that’s where I’m at.”