CHICAGO (CBSLA/CBS CHICAGO) — More than two weeks after “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett claimed he was viciously attacked in Chicago by Trump supporters, sources say the “Empire” actor and non-cooperating witnesses “potentially staged the attack.”
Chicago police raided the home of two “persons of interest” Wednesday night, a relative of those men says.
The men, who are Nigerian brothers, have appeared as extras on the show. The brothers were in police custody Thursday night, being questioned in connection with the alleged staged attack, according to sources.
“They were actually detained at customs at O’Hare airport yesterday around 5:45 p.m.,” said their lawyer Gloria Schmidt. “They had no idea what was going on, and they’ve been detained since then.”
Schmidt says they do both know Smollett.
“They do know Jussie,” she said. “They have worked with him on ‘Empire.’ My preliminary investigations show that on set it’s very tight. They’re all very cordial with each other, so they’re baffled why they are people of interest.”
The brothers were returning from a trip to Nigeria, their attorney said. As they were picked up by police at O’Hare, officers were at their home, taking several items and leaving behind an inventory list of some of the items taken. The list includes a black face mask hat, an “Empire” script, a phone, receipts, a red hat and bleach.
The relative who was home Wednesday night says she heard a loud banging at the door, and that door came crashing down. She says a flood of officers were there saying they had a search warrant.
She says she was patted down by an officer, and police asked her if she knows Smollett. The woman, who is in her 20s, says she was “so scared” and thought she was going to die.
The woman says she was confused, but she did know Smollett was from the show. She says she feels the police picked the two brothers up for questioning because there is a loose connection to Smollett, and the men left for Nigeria the same day of the attack.
Smollett himself was questioned at CPD Area Central Thursday, police confirmed.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted Thursday night that the “media reports” of the attack being a hoax were unconfirmed.
“Media reports anout (sic) the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives,” Guglielmi wrote. “Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”
Fox said claims that Smollett was going to be written off the hit show are patently ridiculous. ‘Empire’ creator Danny Strong reiterated that.
“There is 0% truth that @JussieSmollett was going to be written off of Empire,” Strong tweeted. “This rumor is totally false. He is the third lead and one of the most beloved characters on the show. Writing him off the show has NEVER even been discussed.”
Police officials initially told CBS Chicago that two suspects yelled homophobic slurs at Smollett before attacking him, pouring a chemical substance on him and then wrapping a rope around his neck.
In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett said his attackers yelled “MAGA country” during the assault, Chicago police said.
In the show, Smollett plays a gay man, but he also identifies as gay in real life. Show creator Danny Strong previously took to Twitter to express his support for Smollett:
“I’m deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks against @JussieSmollett. He is a kind and profoundly talented soul whom I respect with all my heart. The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live. Whoever did this, do not forget that you are nothing but hate filled cowards while Jussie’s talent and activism will continue to shine a bright light on to the world for decades to come.”