Smollett has claimed that two men attacked him at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. The Chicago Police Department has consistently said that it was treating him as a victim, but that appears to have changed in the last 24 hours.
“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,” said department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Investigators arrested two Nigerian brothers on Wednesday night, and held them for questioning for two days. One of the men worked as an extra on “Empire,” and both know Smollett from the show, according to their attorney.
According to local media reports, the brothers were confronted with evidence that they had purchased the rope at an Ace hardware store. The brothers were released late on Friday, and are now cooperating with police.
CNN reported on Saturday that police believe that Smollett paid the two men to attack him. The network cited two unnamed law enforcement sources.
Smollett’s reps have called previous reports that the attacked was staged “ridiculous.” Fox has also stood by the actor.