ABC News(CHICAGO) — After interrogating and releasing two men seen in surveillance video near the scene of the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, Chicago police are saying that the new information they have “could change the story entirely.”
The two men, confirmed by police as those seen in surveillance images from the night of the alleged incident, were arrested on Wednesday night and interviewed by detectives in the following days.
Initially, the two men were considered potential suspects because they admitted to police that they were at the scene, that they were the men in the images and because police had probable cause they could be the attackers. Based on the video evidence that police discovered, it did not indicate anyone else was there at the scene of the alleged incident, police say.
But on Saturday, after their release the night before, police were only considering them to be persons of interest, saying that they may still have information that is helpful to the investigation.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 29, Smollett reported that he was walking outside when he was attacked by two men. The attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs before hitting him, pouring “an unknown chemical substance” on him — possibly bleach — and wrapping a rope around his neck, he told detectives.
Police confirmed phone records show that during the attack, Smollett was on the phone with Brandon Moore, his music manager. Both claim that the alleged attackers yelled "MAGA country."
While police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Saturday that he could not speak on what the new information was, he said that the break from detectives has “shifted the trajectory” of the investigation. Though he did not say whether Smollett spoke to the men that night — one of them had previously appeared on “Empire” — he said it will also be central to the investigation whether they spoke to or saw Smollett.
Police raided the home of the two men on Wednesday night to search for possible evidence and retrieved shoes, electronic devices, bleach and a red hat, among other items, according to photos of an inventory log confirmed to ABC News. The inventory log, first reported by a local CBS station, also contained a description for an item saying "Script-Empire."
It’s unclear whether forensic results have come back on any of the seized items on the inventory log.
Police could not confirm that the two men, U.S. citizens of Nigerian descent, are brothers, but told ABC News that they believed as much. They also said that the two “have a relationship with [Jussie].”
They did not name the men, saying they're not doing so because they weren’t being criminally charged.
On Friday, as interviews with the two men continued, Guglielmi said that “the alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect.” He also said that there was “no evidence to say that this is a hoax.”
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