Jussie Smollett Told Chicago Police His Assailants Called Out 'MAGA' During Apparent Hate Crime
Police confirmed in a statement to PEOPLE that Smollett told them his assailants yelled "MAGA"
Empire actor Jussie Smollett — who was the victim of an apparent hate crime early Tuesday — told police his assailants yelled racially charged and homophobic slurs and President Donald Trump‘s slogan, “MAGA.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Chicago Police confirmed that the victim — who has not been officially identified as Smollett — remembered his attackers calling out the “Make America Great Again” abbreviation.
“In the initial reports there was no mention of MAGA,” the statement read. “When detectives [followed] up with him later in the day, he recalled the offenders making those comments and detectives completed a supplemental report.”
The statement continued, saying that “detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators.”
Chicago Police spokesperson, Anthony Guglielmi, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the attackers specifically yelled, “This is MAGA country.” TMZ first reported that Smollett’s attackers allegedly yelled the statement.
Quoting Guglielmi, the Sun-Times reported that Smollett, 35, flew from New York to Chicago on Monday to film the next season of the hit Fox show. Smollett went to get a late-night meal Tuesday and was walking back to his temporary apartment when the attack occurred.
Around 2 a.m. local time, two people walked up to the victim while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, and then they began to beat him with their hands around his face and poured a chemical substance on his neck, Chicago P.D. confirmed in a statement to PEOPLE, which did not name Smollett. The offenders also wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing the scene. A Chicago P.D. spokesperson previously told PEOPLE Smollett believed the substance to be bleach.
The Sun-Times reported that Guglielmi said Smollett did not initially want to tell police what happened because of his high-profile career, but his manager finally called 911 around 2:45 a.m. local time. According to the Sun-Times, when police showed up to speak to Smollett, he still had a “thin, light rope” around his neck. Guglielmi added to the outlet that it didn’t necessarily resemble a noose.
The Sun-Times reported that officers, who turned off their body cams for the interview per Smollett’s request, then told him to go to the hospital for his face and neck cuts. Smollett was released from the hospital later in the day on Tuesday.
Officer Guglielmi told PEOPLE in a Wednesday statement that detectives are continuing the investigation, and noted that “as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, detectives canvassed and reviewed hundreds of hours of video and have now expanded the search area along the Chicago riverfront hoping to find video to be able to release a public description of the offenders. Unfortunately, thus far we have not found any helpful information on a suspect or a suspect’s vehicle to be able to share.”
“We are taking this investigation very seriously and detective teams will broaden our search area and work around the clock to look for video on traffic cameras, CTA buses and neighboring thoroughfares which could have captured the offender’s movements,” said the statement. “The victim in this case is cooperating fully with detectives and our investigation continues.”
As of Tuesday morning, Smollett was in “good in condition,” according to a statement from Chicago P.D.
Smollett’s reps did not respond to PEOPLE’s previous requests for comment.
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement about the attack on Tuesday, saying: “We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face or any despicable act of violence and hatred — and especially against one of our own.”
Smollet’s next-door neighbor, Steven Down, previously told PEOPLE he was upset to hear about what happened. “He’s always been a very friendly, outgoing, warm and personable neighbor,” he said. “I was shocked when I read the news. I did send my message to him personally but I haven’t heard from him or spoken with him. My thoughts are with him.”
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In a statement about the attack to PEOPLE, GLAAD said it reached out to Fox and Smollett’s team to offer assistance.
“Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world,” the statement read.
And Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, further spoke to his contributions to the gay community.
“It’s really awful. It’s shocking, it is deeply saddening. But unfortunately it is of a piece with trends we see in the country right now,” Byard said. “My main concern at this moment is of course that Jussie have all the support to make a full recovery but that also LGBTQ youth across the country, particularly black LGBTQ youth know, that there is a community out there ready to support and protect them. Jussie is a member of our GLSEN family and he’s such an important figure for LGBTQ youth everywhere. I know him as a beacon for young people. The larger context here is that racism and homophobia are deep legacies that our society has to wrestle with and we have far to go.”