Two Suspects in Jussie Smollett Case Under Arrest, Chicago Police Say

Smollett says two men attacked him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs

Last Updated: February 15, 2019 @ 12:04 PM

Two “potential suspects” brought in for questioning in the investigation of an attack on “Empire” star Jussie Smollett have been placed under arrest, Chicago police said Friday.

Police provided no further details, including specific charges or whether the men were the same two men who were taken into custody as “persons of interest” by Chicago police on Wednesday night.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday those men — reportedly two brothers of Nigerian descent who appeared as extras on “Empire” — were not considered suspects at the time. Their attorney Gloria Schmidt did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Smollett was hospitalized on Jan. 29, saying two men approached him on the streets of Chicago and beat him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs and referencing “MAGA.” According to a police statement, the actor reported that the two alleged attackers “batter[ed] the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance” on him. Smollett also said the attackers wrapped a rope around his neck.

The alleged attack itself was not captured on video, but police later shared surveillance footage of two men they identified as “persons of interest,” saying they were wanted for questioning in connection to the investigation.

CBS Chicago later reported that police raided the home of the two men on Wednesday night and seized, among other things, “a black face mask hat, an Empire script, phone, receipts, a red hat and bleach.” According to the report, police took the men into custody at O’Hare International Airport as they returned from a trip to Nigeria.

“The people of interest are alleged to be in the area where a crime was reported,” Gugliemi, the Chicago Police Department spokesperson, said at the time. “They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives. We remain in communication with the alleged victim.”

In his first public interview since the incident, a sit-down with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, Smollett said he was certain the two men in the surveillance footage were the men who attacked him.

“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them,” he said. “Never did.”

Smollett also pushed back on those who have questioned his account of the incident, saying that he was “pissed off” at what he called “attacks” from those who may have doubted his account. “Listen, if I tell the truth then that’s it, ’cause it’s the truth,” he told Roberts.

Police have said that Smollett continues to be considered a victim in relation to the investigation, contesting two recent news reports saying investigators have raised the possibility that Smollett may have orchestrated the attack himself.

“Media reports about the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives,” Chicago PD tweeted Thursday. “Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”