Two days after Jussie Smollett was allegedly attacked in a possible hate crime, his family called the “Empire” actor “a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed.”
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime,” the family wrote in the statement to ABC News. “Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
The family thanked the thousands who have stepped forward on social media and beyond to share support for Smollett.
“We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive,” the statement continued. “We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country. Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such.”
The family added that “radical love is the only solution” to dealing the racism and homophobia they say led to the attack, but warned that “passivity will be our downfall.”
“We, as a family, will continue to work for love, equity and justice until it reigns supreme in our nation and all over the world,” the family added.
The statement comes on the heels of new details provided by the Chicago Police Department Thursday morning. A dozen detectives are pursuing new leads and have tracked the actor’s movements that night through video and photos, police told ABC News.
They say video shows Smollett walking across the street from two possible persons of interest, whose photos were released late Wednesday to the public. In the video, Smollett walks out of frame for about a minute and reappears on another camera “wearing a rope like a neck tie,” police said.
Police are still hoping to speak to the two men seen in the video about the alleged attack.
“Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed,” Chicago Police tweeted late yesterday.
Police also confirmed Thursday that a neighbor of Smollett’s has come forward as a witness and said she saw a person carrying a rope of some kind around the time of the alleged attack. The physical description she provided was different than the one provided by Smollett and detectives have yet to find any surveillance video that shows an individual matching the description of the man she gave.
President Trump called the attack “horrible” while discussing a wide range of issues Thursday afternoon.
“Doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
The “Empire” star told police the alleged attack happened Tuesday about 2 a.m. The 36-year-old actor was subsequently hospitalized and released, local authorities said.
Smollett has been cooperating with local authorities to find the men he says allegedly attacked him and shouted racial and homophobic slurs, police said.
Smollett has declined to hand over his cell phone to detectives, but police are not concerned by this due to the personal nature of someone’s phone, police said.
Police also made it clear to ABC News that Smollett is not the target or focus of any criminal investigation; since he is the victim, they added, detectives won’t press to obtain his phone.
Smollett told police that the men also allegedly poured “an unknown chemical substance” on him, possibly bleach, and wrapped a rope around his neck, as shown in the new video. The rope was still around Smollett’s neck when police spoke to him, officials said.
Brandon Z. Moore, Smollett’s music manager, told ABC News he was on the phone with the actor when he heard part of the alleged attack. He also heard the words “MAGA country,” presumably from the alleged attackers, he added.
“I heard that clearly,” he told ABC News. “I heard the scuffle and I heard the racial slur.”
Police confirmed they have spoken to Moore and his account is noted in the police report. Moore and Smollett both said they were on the phone with each other at the time of the attack, police added.
Detectives have not yet seen phone records to confirm their accounts, police said.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, “Empire” co-star Terrence Howard said a production manager notified the cast about the attack in a meeting on set Tuesday.
The actor said Fox boosted security on set in the wake of the incident and offered each cast member 24-hour personal security.
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