Police identify 'persons of interests' in attack on 'Empire' actor

Chicago (tca/dpa) - Chicago police said Wednesday they have found images of "potential persons of interest" wanted in an alleged assault and battery of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

The images came from a surveillance camera and show persons of interest wanted for questioning, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

A community alert with photos was being prepared, Guglielmi said.
Police said they had not made arrests in the reported attack on Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on Fox's "Empire."
Guglielmi said the pictures, in "really dark" frames, do not show the attack or any contact between them and Smollett.
"They are outside on a street walking. They are in the area that we have determined it could have taken place ... in the time and the area," Guglielmi said. "It certainly leads us to have questions for them."
Now, detectives will backtrack to find them.
"They still have a lot more cameras to look at," Guglielmi said. "But now that we've got potential persons of interest, the focus will be following their paths. Where did they come from and where did they go?"
Police say two people approached Smollett about 2 am Tuesday as he was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street and got his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs. Smollett is black and openly gay.
Smollett was hit and an unknown chemical substance was poured on him, according to police. A rope was wrapped around Smollett's neck before the attackers fled the scene, police said.
Smollett also told police during a follow up interview that they said to him: "This is MAGA country," during the alleged attack.
According to police radio traffic, a dispatcher asked officers to check on a battery report from a caller in an apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street just after 2:30 a.m. A friend of the actor told responding officers that "a noose was placed over the friend's neck." Police said Smollett took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is said to be in "good condition."
After being treated for lacerations to his face, Smollett did not spend the night at the hospital, Guglielmi said.
News of the attack was first reported by TMZ.com and entertainment site ThatGrapeJuice.net.
Tuesday night, detectives were expanding their search area for videos of the suspects or their cars to along the Chicago riverfront.
"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," Guglielmi said in an earlier statement.
Chicago police confirmed that a letter containing an anti-gay epithet and white powder were mailed to the Douglas Park neighbourhood Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where "Empire" is filmed, on January 22. The letter, addressed to one of the show's actors, triggered a hazardous materials call for fire officials, who determined the powder wasn't dangerous. The FBI has since taken over the probe into the letter - as it was sent through the U.S. mail service - while Chicago police continue to look into the attack, authorities said.
"Empire," which premiered on the Fox network in 2015, is a musical drama that films in Chicago for most of the year. The series stars Terrence Howard, Taraji P Henson and Bryshere Gray. Smollett plays a gay musician. He has emerged as an activist for LGBTQ rights and HIV education.


Thursday, January 31st 2019
By Rosemary Sobol, Tracy Swartz and William Lee, Chicago Tribune

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