'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett's family releases statement as police continue to seek footage of alleged attack

The family of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett told Fox News in a statement Thursday they are "hopeful" police will find the men who allegedly attacked the actor on Tuesday and "bring them to justice."

"We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice," the statement said.

The statement comes as Chicago Police tell Fox News they continue to sift through hundreds of public and private surveillance cameras in the high-end area of downtown Chicago where the alleged incident occurred on Tuesday morning but they still haven't found video of the attack or the men who match Smollett's description of the suspects.

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The Smollett family thanked everyone for their support and concluded: "We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed. We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country. 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. Make no mistake, words matter. Hateful words lead to hateful actions. Radical love is the only solution, but passivity will be our downfall. We, as a family, will continue to work for love, equity and justice until it reigns supreme in our nation and all over the world."

Smollett, who is African-American and gay and plays the openly gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox television show, told police he was beaten by two men who subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an "unknown chemical substance" on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing. He returned to his apartment afterward and his manager called police from there about 40 minutes later. When officers arrived, the actor had cuts and scrapes on his face and the rope was draped around his neck. Smollett later went to a hospital for treatment.

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Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said there are still many more videos for investigators to collect and go through as they try to get a complete picture of Smollett's walk home. It is tedious work that is made more difficult because the timestamps on various cameras may not be in sync, meaning detectives have to figure out the exact times of events, he said.

"It's like putting together a puzzle," he explained.

Guglielmi 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 and his manager declined to turn over his phone records to the detectives, who routinely ask for such information during criminal investigations.

Meanwhile, police are hoping to identify and talk to two people who were walking in the area at the time of the attack and whose images police released to the public late Wednesday. Guglielmi stressed that the people are not considered suspects and that police want to question them because they were in the vicinity and might have information that could be useful to the investigation.

Reports of the attack drew a flood of outrage and support for Smollett on social media. Some of the outrage stemmed from Smollett's account to detectives that his attackers yelled that he was in "MAGA country," an apparent reference to the Trump campaign's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

This image provided by the Chicago Police Department and taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, early Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

This image provided by the Chicago Police Department and taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, early Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (Courtesy of Chicago Police Department via AP)

President Donald Trump expressed sympathy for Smollett on Thursday.

"That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn't get worse," the president told reporters when asked about the matter. The spot where Smollett says he was attacked isn't far from the Trump International Hotel & Tower.

The FBI is investigating a threatening letter targeting Smollett that was sent last week to the Fox studio in Chicago where "Empire" is filmed, Guglielmi said. The FBI has declined to comment on the investigation.

In addition to his acting career, Smollett has a music career and is a noted activist, particularly on LBGTQ issues. Smollett's representative said his concert scheduled for Saturday in Los Angeles will go on as planned.

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L-R: Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett in the "Treasons, Stratagems, and Spoils" episode of "Empire."

L-R: Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett in the "Treasons, Stratagems, and Spoils" episode of "Empire." (Fox via Getty)

Now in its fifth season, the hourlong drama "Empire" follows an African-American family as they navigate the ups and downs of the record industry. Smollett's character is the middle son of Empire Entertainment founder Lucious Lyon and Cookie Lyon, played by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, respectively.

Chicago has one of the nation's most sophisticated and extensive video surveillance systems, including thousands of cameras on street poles, skyscrapers, buses and in train tunnels.

Police say the cameras have helped them make thousands of arrests. In one of the best-known examples of the department's use of the cameras, investigators in 2009 were able to recreate a school board president's 20-minute drive through the city, singling out his car on a succession of surveillance cameras to help them determine that he committed suicide and had not been followed and killed by someone else, as his friends speculated.

Fox News' Matt Finn and the Associated Press contributed to this report.