On Thursday (Feb. 14), "multiple sources" informed ABC 7 Chicago that Jussie Smollett staged his Jan. 29 attack because "his character was being written out of the show Empire." Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, quickly dismissed their reporting as unfounded.
"Media reports [about] the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives," Guglielmi tweeted. "Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted [ABC7 Chicago] to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate."
Fox also issued a statement standing by Smollett and denied the actor was ever being written off the show. "The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of 'Empire' is patently ridiculous," the statement read. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."
The unconfirmed reports broke after police raided the home of two Nigerian men looking for evidence of their involvement in the attack. Law enforcement reportedly confiscated five bottles of bleach, a red hat, shoes, and electronics among other items from the house. The men, who are brothers, were picked up at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Wednesday night and taken in for questioning.
WBBM TV reporter Charlie De Mar spoke to the family of the Nigerian men and revealed the brothers are former "Empire" extras who were supposedly leaving for Nigeria on the day of Smollett's assault. Chicago PD has confirmed both men are the "persons of interest" seen in the surveillance footage released from Smollett's attack.
Police were able to identify the men using "rideshare and/or taxicab records" to pinpoint their exact locations, TMZ reports.
A representative for Smollett told a reporter at ABC 7 Chicago the 36-year-old spoke with the Chicago Police Department on Thursday and "continues to cooperate" throughout the investigation.