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Police won't demand 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett turn over cellphone

Actor says he had gone for a bite to eat Tuesday when two men yelling racist and homophobic slurs attacked him.
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Chicago police won't demand "Empire" star Jussie Smollett hand over his cellphone to detectives investigating the alleged assault on him by two men hurling racial and homophobic slurs, the department's superintendent said Friday.

"The allegations as reported to us are horrendous," Eddie T. Johnson told NBC Chicago.

Johnson said the department wouldn't require Smollett to hand over the cellphone, which police said Thursday he refused to do. Requests for comment made Thursday to Smollett's representatives were not returned.

"He’s a victim. We don’t treat him like a criminal," Johnson said, adding that the actor has "been very cooperative with us."

In its own statement, Smollett's family said he has told the police everything about the incident.

"His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice," the family said.

Smollett, who came out as gay in 2015, told police that he had gone to get something to eat in the upscale Streeterville neighborhood about 2 a.m. Tuesday when two men yelling racist and homophobic slurs attacked him, injuring his face.

He said the attackers, described only as men in dark clothing and ski masks, doused him with a chemical and wrapped a rope around his neck, police said. A source familiar with the investigation told NBC News that the chemical was believed to be bleach.

In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett said one of the assailants yelled out, "This is MAGA country," which his manager, who said he was on the phone with the actor, also confirmed to police.

The alleged attack is being investigated as a possible hate crime. U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Illinois, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday calling for a federal hate crime investigation into the attack.

Police have reviewed hundreds of hours of footage from more than 20 surveillance cameras in the area, and have not found images of the alleged attack. But on Wednesday, police released surveillance pictures of two "potential people of interest."