CHICAGO — Detectives are interviewing two “persons of interest” who surveillance photos show were in the area of downtown Chicago where “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said he was attacked last month, police said Thursday.
The Associated Press reports the two men aren’t considered suspects but may have been in the area at the time that Smollett said he was attacked, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, said two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs before attacking him and putting a rope around his neck around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29.
Guglielmi told The Associated Press that the two men are the same people shown in surveillance photos released last month by police. Guglielmi said the men were identified through the use of advanced technology, interviews with Smollett and witnesses, and transportation records.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a law enforcement source said the two men were brought in for questioning Wednesday night from O’Hare International Airport. One of them, the source said, worked on “Empire.” The Tribune, citing sources, also said that both men being questioned are black.
Smollett told “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired Thursday that people who question his narrative of the attack were “ridiculous” to think he would lie. He has said he was attacked while out getting food at a Subway restaurant.
“I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative,” he said. “I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”
He said he didn’t remove the rope before police arrived “because I wanted them to see.”
The singer and actor said the attackers also yelled “this is MAGA country,” referencing President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Smollett said earlier reports from some media outlets that his attackers were wearing “MAGA” hats were inaccurate.
“I didn’t need to add anything like that,” he said. “I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.” No arrests have been made. Police said they’ve not found surveillance video that shows the attack but that the investigation is ongoing.