The move comes weeks after the Empire actor told police he was attacked by two men who threw a bleach-like chemical on him, yelled anti-gay slurs, and put a rope around his neck.
Jussie Smollett was classified as a suspect Wednesday for allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed he was attacked last month in Chicago, police said.
The move comes weeks after the Empire actor told Chicago police he was attacked early Jan. 29 by two men who threw a bleach like chemical on him, called him anti-gay slurs, and put a rope around his neck. In a follow up interview with police, Smollett also said one of the attackers shouted, “This is MAGA country.”
Smollett, who is black and gay, has maintained that he was the victim of a hate crime, and the reported attack quickly received national attention, putting immediate pressure on Chicago police to solve the case.
With little initial evidence of the attack located, police released grainy images of two persons of interest who were captured on surveillance video in Smollett’s neighborhood around the time the actor said he was attacked.
However, the case took several turns that prompted Smollett to double down in public statements insisting it wasn’t all a hoax, telling Good Morning America he was “pissed off” that people were doubting his story.
The hoax theory was fanned by the arrest of two potential suspects who, it turns out, had appeared as extras on Empire, and according to their attorney, knew Smollett personally.
The men, Obabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, are brothers and were detained Feb. 15. A search warrant served at their home turned up “a black face mask hat, an Empire script, a phone, receipts, a red hat, and bleach,” CBS Chicago reported. The station also obtained store surveillance footage released Wednesday that appeared to show the two men buying black masks and a red hat, matching Smollett’s description of his alleged attackers.
Local news outlets reported that the brothers told investigators Smollett had paid them to stage the attack out of fear that he was being written off of Empire. But Chicago police pushed back on the reports, and Fox said Smollett’s character is still a major part of the show. (The network declined to comment on the latest events Wedesnday.)
The two brothers were eventually released after police said they came across information that had “shifted the trajectory” of the investigation. On Wednesday, the brothers arrived at a grand jury room with their attorney and soon afterward Chicago police announced that he was classified as a suspect and that detectives were presenting evidence before a Cook County grand jury.
Police, meanwhile, want to re-interview Smollett, who at one point turned over redacted cell phone records. As recently as Wednesday, police said they were in communication with the actor’s attorneys.