“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett spoke out Friday on the reported racist and homophobic attack against him in Streeterville this week.
“Beautiful people. Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in a statement.
“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.”
Smollett disputed claims that he’s not being truthful with law enforcement officials investigating Tuesday’s incident in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street.
“I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” Smollett said in the statement. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Friday that Smollett has been cooperative with detectives, and that the department is making progress in its investigation.
“We have no reason to think he’s not being genuine with us,” Johnson said. “The allegations that are described to us are horrendous, horrible and quite frankly cowardly. He is a victim, and we treat him like a victim.”
Johnson said the national attention on the case hasn’t caused a rush to wrap up the investigation.
“I don’t think we’re under anymore pressure to solve this one than we are any case,” Johnson said at a news conference.
Police have said Smollett described his attackers as two men wearing ski masks and all black clothing. In a follow-up interview, he told detectives that the men yelled, “This is MAGA country.”
With some 35,000 video surveillance cameras installed around the city, police are optimistic a “bread crumb” will lead them to the two people of interest.
Police this week released the first surveillance images of two people captured on camera about the time and in the area of the attack.
“It’s not very good quality at all, but it’s definitely a starting point for detectives that at least lets us know there were people in that area,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said of the photos.
The video from which the images were captured shows two people walking together and Smollett strolling alone in the opposite direction, Guglielmi said, adding there has so far been no video found of the reported attack.
Police say Smollett, who is black and gay, was walking back to his apartment about 2 a.m. after a stop at a Subway restaurant when two men walked up to him, yelled racist and homophobic slurs, poured what is suspected to be bleach on him and put a rope around his neck.
Investigators have also looked at footage of Smollett’s apartment the morning of the reported attack.
“He is seen on apartment security cameras and he does have a rope around his neck. That rope is fashioned in what has been described as a noose,” Guglielmi said.
The rope and Smollett’s clothing have been taken into evidence, Guglielmi said.
Smollett’s relatives in a statement Thursday called the attack an act of “domestic terrorism.”
“We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime,” his relatives said.
In his statement, Smollett said the “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,” he added. “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.”
The FBI is separately investigating a letter sent on Jan. 22 to Fox and “Empire” offices that used “threatening” language toward Smollett and was laced with some type of white, powdery substance, according to a police spokesman.
The case is being worked by more than a dozen police detectives, some with hate crime specializations . Anyone with information can call (312) 747-8382 or submit an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.
Contributing: Alexandra Arriaga