Video Evidence Likely Exists in Apparent 'Heinous' Attack on Empire's Jussie Smollett: Police
"We will find them," a Chicago police spokesman tells PEOPLE
A Chicago police spokesman tells PEOPLE he is optimistic video evidence will surface that will help them solve the apparent hate crime attack against Empire actor Jussie Smollett early Tuesday morning, describing the details of the allegations as “heinous.”
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tells PEOPLE police are widening their search of surveillance cameras — both public and private — in the area surrounding the sight of the alleged attack by two black-clad, masked men in the city’s Streeterville section near Smollett’s home.
“We are looking for more cameras to review footage from because we haven’t been able to find any cameras that have been of use to us, that documented the assault,” Guglielmi explains. “But these young men had to drive in from somewhere…they had to walk in from somewhere.”
He adds: “If and when this occurred, we will find some kind of digital evidence of it. We have the largest private surveillance network in the country with 3,500 cameras citywide. That particular area’s saturated with our cameras as well as private cameras and red light cameras. If someone drove into this area, we will find them. It takes time to go through all the footage.”
Guglielmi revealed new details about the attack to PEOPLE Wednesday, saying Smollett was targeted on his way home from a Subway, where he’d gone for a late night snack following his flight back to Chicago from New York.
“The victim goes to Subway just after midnight and on his way back, he was attacked by two men,” Guglielmi says. “They were masked and wearing black clothing. They called him an Empire … and they used a homophobic slur. They also used the N-word. They proceed to assault him, and they throw a chemical on him that may have been bleach, and put a rope around neck.”
Guglielmi says the actor returned to his apartment afterwards, and call his manager, who quickly made is way to Smollett’s home. “The manager goes to the apartment, and they agree to call police,” the spokesman says. “The manager called us at 2:40 a.m.”
Police patrols “responded to the residence to take a report and the victim was still wearing the rope around his neck when they arrived,” Guglielmi says. “He explained to them why he had the rope around his neck, and the officers closed their body cams at his request, because they were in his private residence.”
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Hours after that initial interview, Guglielmi says Smollett was interviewed a second time, and informed police his attackers told him he was in “MAGA country” before fleeing on foot — a reference to President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
FBI Investigating Alleged Threatening Letter to Smollett
The attack on Smollett comes after additional security was hired for the Empire set after Fox Studios’ Chicago offices allegedly received a threatening homophobic letter addressed to the 35-year-old actor, who is gay, last week. TMZ first reported the news.
The FBI is investigating that alleged letter, Guglielmi tells PEOPLE.
In photos of the purported letter — which were obtained by GrapeJuice.net and TMZ — the words “you will die black f–” are spelled out in magazine letter cut-outs.
A rep for Fox also confirmed that Empire’s shooting schedule will be reshuffled to accommodate his recovery. However, production was temporarily shut down on both of the network’s Chicago-based shows — Empire and Proven Innocent — due to severe weather. (The Illinois city is facing freezing temperatures and a polar vortex.)
Smollett’s rep has not responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
PEOPLE has reached out to the FBI for comment. The agency declined to comment to the Sun-Times.
Smollett was treated at Northwestern Hospital and is in “good condition.”
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement Tuesday: “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.”