Chicago PD released the following statement on Twitter: “Overnight the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially charged assault and battery against 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.”
According to police, the actor was exiting a restaurant in the 300 block of East Lower Water Street when two suspects began yelling racial and homophobic slurs towards him. They then proceeded to attack Smollett, punching him before pouring an unknown chemical substance over him. At some point during the attack, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck. The attackers then fled the scene.
A law enforcement official in the Windy City told Deadline that officers have been talking to the Empire actor directly about the attack and are in the process of confirming what the substance poured on him is.
Smollett drove himself to Northwestern Hospital and is in good condition, police said.
Smollett plays gay character musician Jamal Lyon, the son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) in Empire.
Smollett told Ellen DeGeneres in 2015 that he self-identifies as gay but chooses to keep his personal life private. “There is no closet, there’s never been a closet that I’ve been in,” he told DeGeneres at the time.
Smollett, a musician as well as actor, is scheduled to perform at Los Angeles’ Troubadour club this Saturday, and as of today the concert is still on, according to concert booker Sean Healy Presents. “We’re going on with the show as far as we know, until we hear anything different,” a Sean Healy Presents booker told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday afternoon.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.