CHICAGO (AP) – The investigation into the story that actor Jussie Smollett was allegedly beaten in a racist and anti-gay attack took another turn on Friday when Chicago police said two men arrested in the case were also black.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the two men had been arrested for "probable cause" of aggression on the "member of the Empire", but that they were not allowed. 39 had not yet been charged on Friday afternoon. Smollett, who is gay, said two masked men beat him after making racist and homophobic abuses and tied him a rope around his neck at the start of the day on January 29th.
The two suspects – whom the police had previously identified as Nigerian brothers – were arrested Wednesday at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport and then detained upon their return from Nigeria after police learned that at least one of the men was working for "Empire". according to Guglielmi. He said that he did not know what was the work of this man in the television series.
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He confirmed that a search warrant had been executed at the Chicago apartment where the men lived, but he had no information on what the police had uncovered.
Guglielmi's comments followed 24 hours of anger, including reports in the local media that the attack was a hoax. Police say these reports are not confirmed. The producers of the television series have also contested media reports that Smollett's character Jamal Lyon was dismissed from the series, calling the idea "obviously ridiculous".
Guglielmi repeated Friday that there was "no evidence to assert that it was a hoax" and that Smollett "continues to be treated by the police as a victim and not as a suspect ".
Smollett told ABC News in an interview broadcast Thursday that the men arrested on Wednesday by the police were those who instigated racist and homophobic insults, beat him, threw him an undetermined chemical and passed him the rope to the neck before escaping. Smollett said he was attacked while he was out picking up food at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago.
Guglielmi said the police had found no surveillance footage showing the attack itself, although she continues to look for such evidence. He added that the police also contacted several retail stores in the hope of determining who had bought the length of rope around Smolllett's neck.
The singer and actor said that the assailants had shouted "This is a MAGA country", referring to President Donald Trump's slogan: "Make America Great Again". Smollett told ABC News that previous information from some outlets that his assailants wearing "MAGA" hats were inaccurate.
"I did not need to add anything like that," he said. "I do not need a MAGA hat like cherry on a racist sundae."
Smollett said that he did not want to call the police at first, but that his friend and art director, Frank Gatson, called on his behalf. Smollett said that he had not removed the rope around his neck before the police arrived "because I wanted them to see."
He also stated that he did not initially want to give his mobile phone to the police because it contained private content and phone numbers.
Smollett later gave the detectives heavily redacted phone records that the police said were insufficient for a criminal investigation.