Chicago police released a statement Friday clarifying the latest developments of the ongoing investigation into the alleged hate crime attack on actor and singer Jussie Smollett, best known for his role on the hit series "Empire." The two men who were taken in for questioning on Wednesday night, police say, are now considered "potential suspects," while Smollett "continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect."
"Interrogations will resume today with the two individuals and their attorney," Chicago Police Department chief spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement emailed to CBS Chicago Friday morning. "While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax. The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect. For clarification, the two individuals interviewed are classified as potential suspects. Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime and we are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues."
The statement comes amid a series of rapidly changing and at times conflicting reports from local Chicago news outlets. On Thursday, multiple outlets including The Chicago Tribune reported that police confirmed that on Wednesday night they detained two "persons of interest" at O'Hare International Airport.
The attorney representing the two potential suspects — whom CBS Chicago says are brothers from Nigeria and worked with Smollett on "Empire" — told the outlet that they have been in custody at Area Central detective headquarters since they were detained Wednesday night at customs at O'Hare after returning from a trip to Nigeria.
“When they first learned about what happened to him they were horrified," Schimdt told CBS. "This is someone they know. This is someone they’ve worked with, so they don’t want to see somebody go through that."
CBS reports that the two men allegedly left town hours after the reported attack on Smollet on January 29.
Police revealed to reporters that they raided the home of the two men Wednesday night. Images posted online by CBS Chicago's Charlie De Mar show the front door apparently kicked in and the apartment strewn with items, including clothing. One photo shows an inventory CBS says was left behind by police. "Some of the items seized include a black face mask hat, an Empire script, phone, receipts, a red hat and bleach," the outlet reports.
Below are some of De Mar's posts on the raid and the two men:
Guglielmi told reporters earlier this week that the "heavily redacted" phone records from the night of the attack provided by Smollett were not sufficient to meet the burden of a criminal investigation. However, according to CWB Chicago, investigators were able to obtain Smollett's complete phone records "via a subpoena served on his service provider." Police reportedly used surveillance footage along with phone records to identify the two suspects.
Smollett, who is an openly gay African American, told police that he was attacked by two masked men at around 2 a.m. on January 29 while walking home from Subway in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood. He says the men assaulted him, calling him "n***er" and "f***ot" and throwing an unknown chemical at him (believed to be bleach). He also says they put a rope around his neck and yelled, "This is MAGA country!"