Wednesday, January 30, 2019

New: Images of "potential persons of interest" released in TV star hate crime case

Police are seeking to identify these two persons who were walking near the attack site early Tuesday. | CPD
Chicago police this evening released images of “potential persons of interest” in connection with the alleged hate crime against Empire television star Jussie Smollett early Tuesday morning in Streeterville.

The images show little more than the silhouettes of two persons who police say were walking on New Street near Illinois Street between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. Smollett was reportedly attacked 15 to 30 minutes later, according to previously-released information from CPD.

Surveillance image from CPD (left) and Google Street View image showing camera location.| CPD; Google
Police said in a “seeking to identify” bulletin that they wanted to determine whether the pair has any involvement in the reported incident or if they may have witnessed the incident.

Anyone with information may contact Area Central detectives at 312-747-8380 about case #JC133190.

Smollett told police that he was attacked by two masked people around 2 a.m. Tuesday as he returned home from eating at a nearby Subway restaurant, 511 North McClurg Court. He said the men used anti-gay and anti-black language while putting a rope around his neck and pouring suspected bleach on him.

Smollett’s music manager, Brandon Z. Moore, told Variety today that he was on the phone with Smollett when the actor was attacked. “I heard ‘MAGA country’ clearly,” Moore said. “I heard the scuffle and I heard the racial slur.”

Moore said he gave his account of events to police but he declined to go into details with Variety because the investigation is active.

Rob Elgas of ABC7 reports that police confirm Moore and Smollett told them that they were talking on their phones at the time of the attack, but CPD cannot verify the conversation because Smollett refused to turn his phone over to investigators. 

Around 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a man who identified himself to a 911 operator as a friend of Smollett reported that Smollett had been assaulted and battered near the caller’s high-rise apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street.

The caller said his friend was “well-known” and that a noose had been placed over the friend’s neck during the incident. EMS services were refused.

Police arrived about ten minutes later, roughly 45 minutes after the attack, and met with Smollett who still had the rope around his neck, according to police. Officers turned off their body worn cameras at Smollett’s request, a police spokesperson said.

Late Tuesday, a police spokesperson told the Sun-Times that the rope "didn't necessarily resemble a noose.” A police source told CWBChicago that the rope was "thin clothesline, straight out of the package."

Smollett later took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was treated and released.

TMZ.com broke news of the alleged attack Tuesday morning, reporting that Smollett’s attackers had menaced him by yelling, “this is MAGA country.” Police were not initially told about the reference to Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, a department spokesperson said. Detectives re-contacted Smollett and filed a supplemental report to reflect the additional information.

More than a dozen investigators scoured the neighborhood for surveillance cameras on Tuesday. The police department said that, while restaurant cameras recorded Smollett at the Subway alone, no images had been captured of any potential suspects or suspect vehicles by 10 p.m. Detectives, a spokesperson said, were expanding the boundaries of the video search area.

Earlier coverage


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