Empire actor Jussie Smollett on Friday spoke out for the first time since he was allegedly physically attacked in Chicago by men shouting racial and homophobic insults, affirming he has been “100% factual and consistent” with his story.
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in a statement to ESSENCE. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words. ”
“I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” the actor continued. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served. ”
According to a police statement, the actor was walking near the Chicago River downtown around 2 a.m. Tuesday when he was approached by two men who shouted at him, struck him in the face and poured an “unknown substance” on him before one of them wrapped a rope around his neck. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that when officers first came in contact with Smollett, he still had a rope around his neck. While being interviewed by detectives, Guglielmi said Smollett told them that the attackers yelled he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Smollett concluded his statement, saying: “As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
Detectives reviewed surveillance footage of Smollett walking to his downtown Chicago apartment, yet so far none of the video shows him being attacked by two masked men, although investigators have obtained images of people they would like to question, a police spokesman said Wednesday.
Guglielmi tweeted photos of the “persons of interest” Wednesday evening.
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 pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019
Investigators “for the most part” can confirm the route Smollett took early Tuesday when he says he was attacked along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood after visiting a sandwich shop, Guglielmi said. However, there are gaps, and none of the footage shows an attack, he said, although the review is ongoing.
Guglielmi said detectives, who are investigating the allegations as a possible hate crime, have looked at hundreds of hours of surveillance video from businesses and hotels in the heavily monitored area. However, he said they still need to collect and view more. Further, he said Smollett and his manager told detectives they were talking on the phone at the time of the attack, but that the 36-year-old actor declined to turn over his phone records to the detectives, who routinely ask for such information during criminal investigations.
In a statement Thursday, Smollett’s family called the alleged attack a “hate crime” and pushed back against any suggestion that he was anything but honest with the police.
“His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice. Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time. We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive,” the family said, adding later that “Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such. They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.