“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was “officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation” by authorities on Wednesday for allegedly “filing a false police report” in connection with his attack claims, Chicago police said.
The update in the case was provided by the department’s Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi on Twitter. Detectives on the case were laying out evidence to a grand jury in Cook County, he said.
Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury. pic.twitter.com/FhDcbBKsuU
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 20, 2019
In a statement to Fox News on Wednesday about the latest development in the case, 20th Century Fox Television, which produces “Empire,” and Fox Entertainment said they had “no comment at this time.”
Smollett, who is openly gay and black, reported that on Jan. 29, he was attacked by two masked men as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant. He claimed that the men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs at him, poured a substance on him, threw a rope around his neck and shouted, “This is MAGA country!”
Investigators combed through surveillance video from the area where Smollett claimed he was attacked but were unsuccessful in locating footage of the beating. They did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question.
CASE UPDATE: Tonight #ChicagoPolice detectives expanded the search area for cameras to be able to provide photos of the alleged assailants in this attack. Thus far, no video of the alleged assailants or a vehicle has been discovered but we are continuing to broaden our search pic.twitter.com/glRMbAX6D0
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 30, 2019
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) 31 January 2019
Two individuals who were questioned about the alleged crime were arrested, police told Fox News on Friday. Although police did not elaborate on what crime was potentially committed, they said the individuals were not charged. Authorities had considered them to be suspects, however, according to Guglielmi at the time.
The two men — whom police identified only as Nigerian brothers — were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday and taken into custody after returning from Nigeria after police learned that at least one of the men worked on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. He did not know what the man’s job was on the television drama, he said.
Guglielmi confirmed that a search warrant was executed at the Chicago apartment where the men lived but did not have any information about exactly what police found.
On Friday evening, Guglielmi tweeted that “due to new evidence” obtained through questioning, the individuals “were released without charging.”
The following day, police said Smollett was no longer considered a victim in their investigation. Police earlier said that the “trajectory of the investigation” shifted and that they wanted to conduct another interview with Smollett about the alleged hate crime.
The police department on Tuesday also rejected a tip they said they’d received about the case earlier that day.
“CPD has confirmed that a tip this morning about a sighting at the residential towers of individuals involved in this alleged incident is unfounded as it was not supported by video evidence obtained by detectives,” Guglielmi tweeted.
Amid questions about the alleged attack, Smollett said earlier this month that he was angry and “pissed off” about “attacks” he’s received from people that don’t believe, or don’t care, about his allegations.
His comments came during an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America.”
“At first it was a thing of like, listen, if I tell the truth, then that’s it — cause it’s the truth,” he said. “Then it became a thing of like, oh, how can you doubt that? Like how do you not believe that? It’s the truth.”
Fox News Sasha Savitsky, Matt Finn, Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.