Authorities in Illinois are reportedly pursuing evidence that actor Jussie Smollett and two other men might have played a role in staging what police had initially indicated could have been a hate crime.
According to a local CBS affiliate, officers in Chicago raided a home occupied by two men identified as Nigerian brothers who had roles as extras on “Empire,” the show on which Smollett stars.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, the 35-year-old claimed he was the victim of a violent homophobic attack by two men last month after leaving a Subway restaurant. Days earlier, he alleged that he received a hate-filled letter threatening his life.
Authorities have been following up on leads in the weeks since and a relative of the two men interviewed this week are suspected of possibly working with Smollett to orchestrate the incident.
After searching the home, police reportedly left with evidence including bleach, receipts, shoes and other items. Sources close to the family say the home was left in disarray after investigators searched it.
TMZ cited sources reporting that Smollett himself was interviewed by police on Thursday.
Despite those sources’ claims, however, police remain firm in their assertion that there is no evidence to report showing Smollett was involved in the attack, as reported by the New York Daily News.
Media reports anout the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives. 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. pic.twitter.com/iSO5YFv452
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 15, 2019
The two men reportedly wanted as persons of interest were arrested at O’Hare airport on Wednesday after leaving for Nigeria — on the day of Smollett’s alleged attack — for what they claimed was a family visit.
A statement from the production companies behind “Empire” offered their own statement on the recent updates in the case.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous,” Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television wrote. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
[Featured image: Jussie Smollett, Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP]