CHICAGO — Two men being questioned in connection with an attack reported by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett have been released without charge, the Chicago Police Department said Friday.
The men, who were arrested Wednesday, were released “due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations,” said Chicago police Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi. “And detectives have additional investigative work to complete.”
The men arrested were the same two who police previously said were being viewed as “potential suspects,” Tom Ahern, Chicago police communications deputy director said earlier Friday.
Earlier Friday, Guglielmi said two Nigerian brothers were being treated as “potential suspects” and that detectives had “probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime.”
Police did not say at that time precisely what the brothers were accused of or what the alleged crime might have been.
The two men and Smollett had some kind of previous affiliation, a police source told CNN, without providing further detail.
Smollett, one of the stars of the TV drama “Empire,” told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who lobbed “racial and homophobic slurs” at him.
After a brief struggle, both men ran away, and Smollett told police that one attacker had allegedly put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
“Interrogations will resume today with the two individuals and their attorney,” Guglielmi said in Friday’s statement. “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,” he added.
Police said Thursday they were questioning the two men after meeting them at Chicago O’Hare International Airport Wednesday night, but they were not considered suspects at that time. Their apartment was searched by police earlier this week.
One of the brothers has appeared on “Empire,” according to police.
Authorities previously released surveillance images of two silhouetted figures in the area of the attack and said they were wanted for questioning.
Smollett shared his detailed account of the alleged attack in a Thursday morning interview on “Good Morning America,” in which he rejected reports that he said he told police the attackers wore Make America Great Again hats.
“I never said that,” he said. “I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a f****t, they called me a n****r. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on some racist sundae.”