Chicago police say “the trajectory of the investigation” into the reported attack on Jussie Smollett has shifted and they want to conduct another interview with the Empire actor.
On Friday, police released without charges two Nigerian brothers they had detained for questioning earlier in the week.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi issued a statement on Saturday, which said: “We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.
“We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Lawyers for Smollett later issued a statement saying the actor would continue to cooperate with police, but felt “victimised” by reports that he might have been involved in the attack.
“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” the statement from Todd Pugh and Victor P Henderson said.
Smollett has said he was attacked by two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA (Make America Great Again) country!”.
He said they looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was out getting food at a Subway restaurant early on January 29. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
On Wednesday, Chicago police picked up two brothers at O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria. They described them as “suspects” in the assault, questioned them and searched their apartment.
Then, late on Friday, police said they were no longer suspects.
One of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer who he hired to get him physically ready for a music video, the statement from the actor’s lawyers said.
“It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” the statement added.
Police said they combed surveillance video but were unable to find any footage of the attack.
Smollett turned over redacted phone records that police said were not sufficient for a criminal investigation.