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Rush asks for FBI hate crime investigation into attack of ‘Empire’ star

Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett, a cast member from the Fox series “Empire,” was injured in what police called a “possible racially charged assault and battery” early Tuesday. | AP photo

Congressman Bobby Rush wants the FBI to open a hate crime investigation into the reported attack of an “Empire” actor in Streeterville early Tuesday.

Jussie Smollett, a cast member on the Fox series “Empire,” told police that he was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street around 2 a.m. Tuesday when two people walked up to him and yelled racist and homophobic slurs before hitting him in the face, pouring a substance on him — suspected to be bleach — and putting a rope around his neck.

“As you are aware, crimes of this nature strike fear at the very core of a community and have a long-lasting impact on its members,” Rush wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday. “They are, therefore, rightfully characterized as hate crimes.”

Smollett initially told police his attackers were two men wearing ski masks and all black clothing. In a follow-up interview, Smollett told detectives the men also yelled “this is MAGA country” after they attacked him, according to Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Smollett didn’t provide any other description of the men, including their race.

Police have yet to recover any video footage showing the reported attack and have not been able to find any witnesses.

The block where the attack took place has some parking garage entrances but no retail businesses. But police were able to recover video from various business, residential and police cameras in the wider area. A surveillance camera at the Subway shows Smollett at the restaurant.

More than a dozen police detectives, some specializing in hate crimes, are working the case. They asked anyone with who has information or witnessed the attack to call detectives at (312) 747-8382 or submit an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.

The FBI is already investigating a separate incident involving Smollett.

On Jan. 22, a letter with “threatening language” was sent to the Fox and “Empire” offices.

The letter was laced with some type of white, powdery substance, according to Guglielmi.

A celebrity website, GrapeJuice.net, published a picture of the letter with the words, “You will die black f–,” written in letters apparently cut from magazines.