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By Janelle Griffith
The Chicago Police Department on Sunday said it needed to conduct follow-up interviews into the alleged attack of “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, referring to him as “the individual who reported the incident.”
“While we are not in a position to confirm, deny or comment on the validity of what’s been unofficially released, there are some developments in this investigation and detectives have some follow-ups to complete which include speaking to the individual who reported the incident,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Here is what else we know:
On Jan. 29, Smollett filed a report with the Chicago Police Department stating that two masked men hurled racist and homophobic slurs before beating him. The actor, who is black and gay, also said his attackers poured what he believed was bleach over him and put a noose around his neck. Many celebrities, including “Empire” cast members and gay-rights advocates showed their support for Smollett on social media.
Possible hate crime
From the onset, the police department said it was investigating the alleged attack as a possible hate crime.
‘Persons of interest’
Chicago police said on Jan. 30 that a thorough review of security video in the alleged assault and battery on Smollett revealed “potential persons of interest” that investigators would like to question. Officials released pictures from a surveillance camera located near where Smollett says he was attacked. Before that break, the case seemed to stall as detectives reviewed hundreds of hours of security and other types of video and came up with no leads.
Decline to share phone records
On Jan. 31, Chicago police said Smollett declined to share telephone records that could show he was speaking with his manager just as the alleged assault happened, which he had claimed. The manager had told police he heard the attackers say, “This is MAGA country,” during the assault, officials said.
President Donald Trump weighed in that day from the Oval Office, saying that the attack was “horrible” and that it “doesn’t get worse.”
Smollett family speaks out
On the same day authorities said Smollett refused to turn over his cellphone to investigators, his family released a statement saying: “We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
Treating him like a victim
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson told NBC Chicago on Feb. 1 that detectives would not demand Smollett hand over his cellphone or phone records. Johnson said the allegations as described to police “are horrendous, horrible, and quite frankly cowardly.”
“He is a victim, and we treat him like a victim. He’s been very cooperative,” Johnson said. “We are making gains in the investigation and hopefully we’ll bring it to a successful resolution soon.”
Smollett released his first official statement on Feb. 1, thanking family, friends and fans for their support in the wake of the alleged attack.
“I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” he said. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
Partial records turned over
Smollett gave detectives partial records of his cellphone usage on Feb. 11, which marked 13 days since the alleged assault. The actor gave investigators a PDF file containing a redacted list of his calls, a police spokesman told NBC News.
Anger at those who doubted his story
In his first interview about the incident, the actor told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was angry about the alleged attack and at those who doubted his story.
Social media users began to cast doubt over his claims after police said they were not able to find video of the alleged attack.
Smollett said he didn’t want to hand over his phone because he has “private pictures and videos and numbers,” and he was already wary because of the way some reacted to his account of the attack.
He also said that he believed if he had claimed his attacker was a minority, no one would have doubted him.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, and that says a lot about the place we are in our country right now,” Smollett told ABC News.
‘Persons of interest’ identified
On Thursday morning, hours after the airing of Smollett’s ABC News interview, Chicago police announced that “through meticulous investigation” they had identified two persons of interest.
“These individuals are not yet suspects but were in area of concern and are being questioned,” a police spokesman said in a tweet.
Later, police said they searched at least one property in connection with their investigation but that they still have no motive for the attack.
‘Pleased there is progress’
In a statement to NBC News earlier on Thursday, a representative for Smollett welcomed the identification of two persons of interest.
“We are pleased there is progress in the case and are waiting to hear further details,” his representative said.
Released due to new evidence
On Friday night, police said they released the two men who had been questioned in the case without charge, and that they are no longer considered suspects.
“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” a police spokesman said in a statement.
Probe shifts to whether actor staged incident
On Sunday, a police source familiar with the investigation told NBC News that the probe has shifted into whether the actor paid two men who were questioned in the case to stage an assault.
A Chicago police spokesman said Saturday evening that “the trajectory of the investigation” changed.
“We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview,” the spokesman said.
Smollett’s attorneys denied any suggestion that the actor was complicit. They said Smollett is the victim of a hate crime and that he has been cooperative with police.
“He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” the attorneys said.