Chicago police question two over alleged attack on ‘Empire’ actor

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FILE PHOTO: Jussie Smollett performs a tribute to President’s Award recipient John Legend at the 47th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

(Reuters) – Chicago police are questioning two persons of interest who were in the area when “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said he suffered a racist and homophobic assault, authorities said on Thursday.

Detectives used surveillance camera footage to identify the pair, whose names have not been released, as they investigated an attack that Smollett said occurred on Jan. 29, when two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him and put a rope around his neck.

“They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter.

News of the alleged attack against Smollett, a 36-year-old openly gay African-American who plays a gay character on the hip-hop drama “Empire,” caused uproar on social media, but some have doubted Smollett’s account.

Police have not found any surveillance video of the event, which they say is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

The photos of the persons of interest, which Guglielmi posted on Twitter, show the backs of two people walking on a sidewalk near where Smollett said he was assaulted.

In an interview with Good Morning America that aired on Thursday, Smollett said he was angry that some people doubted his story, and he suggested the disbelief might come from racial bias.

“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot,” he said.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Alistair Bell