Chicago police have arrested two “potential suspects” in the alleged assault of Jussie Smollett.
On Friday (Feb. 15), Chicago P.D. spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said they are talking to two men and “detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime.”
“We are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues,” added Guglielmi.
According to TMZ, the men are brothers from Nigeria named Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who have ties to “Empire.” Cops raided their home on Wednesday and seized potential evidence including several bottles of bleach. Ola played a prison inmate on the second season of “Empire,” while Abel also says he worked on the Fox show.
Police are investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the Chicago attack last month because the actor is being written off the series. However, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment have denied the report.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of ‘Empire’ is patently ridiculous,” the network and studio said in a joint statement. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
On Thursday night (Feb. 14), Guglielmi said the hoax reports were “unconfirmed by case detectives,” adding that there is “no evidence to support” the claims.
Smollett told police he was attacked in the early hours of Jan. 29 by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs. They tied a rope around his neck and doused him with a chemical substance, possibly bleach, while yelling, “This is MAGA country.”
On Thursday, Smollett appeared on “Good Morning America,” where he spoke for the first time about the alleged attack. “At first, it was like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth, then that’s it, because it’s the truth,’” an emotional Smollett told Robin Roberts. “Then it became a thing of, like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that, like how do you not believe that? It’s the truth.’ And then it became a thing of, like, ‘Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.’”
He also explained why he was initially hesitant to go to police. “There’s a level of pride there. We live in a society where, as a gay man, you are considered somehow to be weak,” he said. “And I’m not weak. We, as a people, are not weak.”
UPDATE: The two men arrested in connection with the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett were released without charge on Friday. They are no longer considered potential 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,” Anthony Guglielmi, the Chicago Police Department spokesman, said in a statement.