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Singer-songwriter and Empire star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized following what's being investigated as a homophobic, racist hate crime, police confirm. The assault happened around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning outside a Subway in Chicago, with TMZ saying two white men wearing ski masks allegedly shouted “this is MAGA country," placed a noose around Smollett's neck, beat him, and left him with a fractured rib.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime," reads the PD's statement, adding that “an unknown chemical substance” was poured on Smollett.
Before the attack occurred, Smollett apparently received a letter with cut-out letters spelling "You will die black f*g." Smollett has reportedly already been released from the Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The multi-talented 35-year-old came out as gay in 2015 in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres.
Complex has reached out to a representative of Smollett but did not receive a response before the time of publishing.
TMZ added that the Empire staff got together for an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning and that multiple actors were prepping in their trailers for the day's work. There was reportedly conversation about beefing up on-set security.
Judging from the letter That Grape Juice acquired, the attack was premeditated. It's unclear when Smollett received the letter, but it's accompanied by what looks like a child's handwriting and a crude drawing of him wearing a noose.
A Chicago police spokesperson told Complex that the attackers did not say "this is MAGA country," releasing another statement saying "there is no report of that being said." In regards to the racial comments and homophobic slurs being reported, CPD states: "We don’t have that information; the detectives are still investigating."
The CPD currently doesn't have any updates on Smollett or the attackers.
Besides starring in Empire, Smollett recently had supporting roles in 2018's Alien: Covenant and 2017's Marshall, while also appearing as a guest host on Live! with Kelly for six episodes in 2016.