Hampton Roads community reacts to Jussie Smollett case

NORFOLK, Va. - "Disappointed" is how some people in Hampton Roads describe how they feel when it comes to Jussie Smollett and the latest news surrounding him.

The letdown comes after the "Empire" star turned himself in to authorities Thursday morning after substantiated evidence seemed to go against his claims that he was a victim of a hate crime.

Smollett is now being charged with a felony of filing a false police report.

Some people in Norfolk say they feel as if this incident is going to make racial tensions worse, and create more divisions for people of color and people in the LGBT community.

“He kind of betrayed us in a sense. It’s just really sad. I feel bad for victims that really go through this type of injustice," said Norfolk resident Iisha Brown.

The CEO of LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, Stacie Walls-Beegle, said the Jussie Smollett incident is a setback because you want to believe the best in people.

“There are people in the community who have a platform, and it’s sad to see when you have that privilege you take advantage of it. If that’s what happened here, that’s a sad thing and it lets us all down," Walls-Beegle said.

Walls-Beegle says now people may have a hard time coming forward in fear of others not believing them. But, she also says this high-profile case should not deter victims of hate crimes from speaking up.

“All of us need to believe people when they say it and make it the most safe environment for them possible to report something that happens," Walls-Beegle said. "For LGBT people, for people of color, for transgender people. We need to believe them when they say they’ve been offended and when they say they’ve been hurt.”

People at the LGBT Life Center say it’s important for victims of hate crimes to know there are resources and counseling services available so that victims can find help and report the crimes in a safe place.

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