Ever since Jussie Smollett, the star of “Empire” on Fox, reported that he was beaten by two masked men yelling racist and homophobic slurs early Tuesday morning, Chicago police have been slow to find corroborating evidence. TMZ and other outlets have corrected several of their initial reports of the alleged incident. Here is what we currently know.
1. Smollett Requested Police Turn Off Their Body Cameras; Was Wearing Noose When They Arrived
According to Chicago reporter Rob Elgas, when police arrived to take a report, Smollett asked that the officers turn off their body cameras. A Chicago Police Department spokesperson said this is not uncommon and that when entering a private residence, officers are supposed to inform citizens they are wearing cameras.
Chicago PD also said when they arrived at the apartment, Smollett was still wearing the noose attackers put around his neck, and others reported he wore it throughout their entire 40-minute interview.
CPD also says: when Smollett contacted police at 2:42AM, he was still wearing the rope around his neck. The alleged encounter occurred at 2AM. Police have the rope and it will be analyzed.
— Rob Elgas (@RobElgasABC7) January 29, 2019
Using building security footage, Police confirmed that Smollett was, “wearing a rope like a neck tie,” when he walked into the lobby of his building.
2. Smollett Did Not Turn Over His Phone To Police
Several media outlets reported that Smollett refused to turn over his phone and phone records to police. He said he was on the phone with his manager when the attack happened, and the manager was the one who called 911 dispatch. However, TMZ is reporting a discrepancy with the description that he “refused.”
The sources say cops “informally asked” Jussie if he would surrender his phone … to verify he was talking to his manager on his cell when he was attacked. We’re told he felt “uncomfortable” doing that and declined, but he was never asked about phone records. A Chicago police official had said Jussie refused to turn over both the phone and records. We’re told Smollett has already said he will provide the records, and is in the process of gathering them.
In a statement given to ESSENCE Magazine Friday morning, Smollett said he is frustrated by inaccurate reports and that he is cooperating with police.
“I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” he said. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
Elgas also noted that police do not have a warrant to search his phone records.
Chicago police also say Jussie Smollett is NOT the target or focus of any criminal investigation, he is the victim. Police have no interest or probable cause to obtain a warrant to search his phone records.
— Rob Elgas (@RobElgasABC7) January 31, 2019
3. No Video Evidence of the Attack, Police Release Person of Interest Images
Over a dozen police officers have been sifting through footage to piece together Smollett’s report. After searching for surveillance footage for over 24 hours and broadening their search, police finally located a camera with “potential persons of interest” around the time of the attack but the images are too dark to see any faces. They also found stretches of footage of Smollett’s walk from the Subway sandwich shop he was at to his apartment.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019
4. Smollett Never Said His Attackers Were White
Multiple media outlets ran TMZ’s report that the attackers were, “both white and wearing ski masks.”
As Robby Soave at Reason pointed out, a Chicago PD spokesperson denied that Smollett reported the attacker’s race. “According to the victim, the offenders’ faces were concealed,” a police spokesperson told Reason.
5. Attackers Allegedly Yelled ‘This is MAGA Country’
In the first police reported taken on Tuesday about 40 minutes after the attack, there is no mention of “MAGA.” But a police spokesperson has now told multiple outlets that when detectives followed up with Smollett later on Tuesday, he recalled the offenders making those comments, and detectives completed a supplemental report.
6. Police Are Investigating A Letter Sent To Smollett Last Week
Smollett received a threatening letter on the set of Empire more than a week before the attack. Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN the letter contained a white powder but it was determined to be aspirin.
ThatGrapeJuice.Net has reported to have obtained a picture of the letter (below) which includes a homophobic slur and what appears to be “MAGA” on the top right corner. Apparently, after receiving the letter, Fox wanted to get around the clock security guards for Smollett but he turned it down.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the “Empire” star’s alleged attackers. News outlets should be scrupulous when combing through the facts of the case.