Two men arrested this week in connection with the homophobic and racist attack reported by Empire actor Jussie Smollett have been released without being charged, the Chicago Police Department confirmed Friday.
“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,” CPD chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi tweeted.
The two men, identified as Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were being questioned and treated as “potential suspects.”
Police raided their home Wednesday after detaining them at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport upon their return from a trip to Nigeria.
Case Update: 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. pic.twitter.com/Hswn1Qjgcy
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 16, 2019
Some of the items seized at the house included a black face mask, an Empire script, a red hat, and bleach, CBS 2 Chicago reports.
According to police, one of the brothers had worked on Empire in some capacity.
“When they first learned about what happened to him they were horrified,” said Gloria Schmidt, the brothers’ attorney. “This is someone they know. This is someone they’ve worked with, so they don’t want to see somebody go through that.”
A CPD spokesperson also tweeted that media reports about the incident being a hoax, possibly staged because the actor feared he was being written off of Empire, are “unconfirmed,” as well as “uninformed and inaccurate.” Empire representatives have also strongly denied any plans to kill off Smollett’s character.
Smollett, 36, who plays gay performer Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama, was allegedly attacked January 29 in Chicago by two masked assailants using racist and homophobic slurs. They reportedly yelled, “Aren’t you that faggot Empire nigger?” and “This is MAGA country!”
The attackers also reportedly tied rope around Smollett’s neck and poured bleach on him in what Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker called “an attempted modern-day lynching.”
CPD previously released a screenshot from surveillance video of two persons of interest in connection with the alleged attack, which they are treating as a potential hate crime.
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in his first official statement following the attack. “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”
Smollett made his first public appearance following the attack last Saturday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. He took the opportunity to correct some rumors and misreporting regarding the incident, telling the crowd, “I fought the fuck back.”
Appearing Thursday on Good Morning America, Smollett stood by his story and expressed frustration at his challenged credibility. “I want them to stop being able to say ’alleged attack,'” he told host Robin Roberts.