Letter containing white powder sent to 'Empire' set days before Jussie Smollett attack

Chicago police have photos of people they'd like to talk to in the case involving "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, who was the victim of what police are investigating as a possible hate crime. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.

Posted: Jan 31, 2019 7:40 PM
Updated: Jan 31, 2019 7:40 PM

A letter containing a white powder was sent to the Chicago set of "Empire" days before one of the show's stars, Jussie Smollett, was allegedly attacked by two men on January 29.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN that the letter, received on January 22 at Cinespace Studios, where the show is filmed, prompted a response from the HAZMAT unit.

Guglielmi said authorities determined the powder to be aspirin, but declined to give details on the content of the letter.

The FBI is leading the investigation into the letter, he added.

A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Entertainment, which produces the series, declined to comment when reached by CNN.

More details

In Chicago, police continue their investigation into the alleged attack, which occurred near a lower entrance to the Loews Chicago Hotel.

Smollett said his attackers physically assaulted him and called him homophobic and racist slurs, according to police.

Smollett, who was returning from an early morning trip to a Subway sandwich shop, also reported that one of his attackers put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him, police said.

Investigators have video of Smollett entering the hotel after the alleged attack with what appears to be a noose around his neck, Guglielmi said.

Police are in possession of the rope and the sweater Smollett was wearing on the night of the attack and are testing the substance, according to Guglielmi.

Smollett and his manager, Brandon Moore, told authorities they were speaking on the phone with each other at the time of the attack, police said.

Guglielmi said because of the financial relationship between the two men, they are trying to verify the call took place and have requested phone records or the physical phones used for the call.

Police were called 30-40 minutes after the attack took place, Guglielmi said.

Detectives have collected and are reviewing more surveillance video from neighboring hotels and apartments, but have not found video of the incident at this point, Guglielmi said.

On Wednesday, police released photos of two individuals who are now wanted for questioning in connection with the case.

Smollett has starred on Fox's "Empire" since 2015. He plays Jamal, a successful singer in the musical Lyon family. Like his character, Smollett identifies as gay.

Family responds

On Thursday, the Smollett family condemned the "violent and unprovoked attack," calling it "a racial and homophobic hate crime" in their first official statement since the incident.

"Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning," the statement said. "His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice."

In the aftermath of Smollett's assault, his friends, colleagues and peers showed an outpouring of support for the actor, who is an active advocate for the LGBTQ community.

"Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time," the statement added. "We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed."

West Lafayette
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: °
Kokomo
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 38°
Rensselaer
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 41°
Fowler
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Williamsport
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 38°
Crawfordsville
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 38°
Frankfort
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 38°
Delphi
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Monticello
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Logansport
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 45°
Below normal temperatures & patches of frost in the north & northeast.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 108646

Reported Deaths: 3478
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20341757
Lake10013312
Elkhart6198106
St. Joseph586796
Allen5785198
Hamilton4600109
Vanderburgh318126
Hendricks2607120
Monroe224336
Johnson2241122
Tippecanoe211313
Clark205056
Porter197843
Cass19209
Delaware180159
Vigo169621
Madison153075
LaPorte134837
Floyd127961
Howard125163
Kosciusko116717
Bartholomew113257
Warrick104134
Marshall97423
Boone93846
Dubois92118
Hancock89242
Noble86432
Grant85132
Henry73424
Jackson7259
Wayne72214
Morgan68038
Shelby65529
LaGrange62811
Daviess61627
Dearborn61428
Clinton59111
Harrison54824
Putnam5098
Lawrence49928
Montgomery49421
White47114
Knox4659
Decatur44739
Gibson4344
DeKalb42511
Miami4202
Greene40935
Fayette40413
Jasper3732
Scott34410
Steuben3447
Sullivan32612
Jennings30512
Franklin29225
Posey2900
Clay2855
Orange27924
Ripley2768
Carroll26713
Wabash2547
Washington2491
Whitley2456
Wells2422
Starke2387
Jefferson2363
Adams2303
Fulton2292
Tipton21522
Huntington2073
Randolph2047
Perry20014
Spencer1984
Jay1640
Newton16411
Owen1621
Martin1560
Rush1484
Pike1331
Vermillion1210
Fountain1152
Pulaski1121
Blackford1072
Crawford980
Brown933
Parke902
Benton880
Union760
Ohio757
Switzerland660
Warren381
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events