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By Janelle Griffith
Two brothers from Nigeria have been identified as persons of interest in connection with the alleged attack on “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, Chicago police said late Thursday.
Officials said the two are affiliated with the show “Empire” and were detained on their arrival at O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday.
The police gave no further information about their specific roles or connections to the show but said the investigation continues.
Smollett filed a report with Chicago police on Jan. 29 stating that two men hurled racist and homophobic slurs before beating him. He also told police that his attackers poured a chemical, possibly bleach, over him and put a noose around his neck.
Earlier Thursday, police said that “through meticulous investigation” they had identified two persons of interest.
“These individuals are not yet suspects but were in area of concern and are being questioned,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Later, police said they searched at least one property in connection with their investigation but that they still have no motive for the attack. Police have said they are investigating the alleged attack against Smollett, who is black and gay, as a possible hate crime.
In a statement to NBC News earlier on Thursday, a representative for Smollett welcomed the identification of two persons of interest.
“We are pleased there is progress in the case and are waiting to hear further details,” his representative said.
In his first interview about the incident, the actor told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was angry about the alleged attack and at those who doubted his story.
Social media users began to cast doubt over his claims after police said they were not able to find video of the alleged attack.
“It’s like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth, then that’s it, ’cause it’s the truth,” Smollett said. “Then, it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that?’ Like, how do you — how do you not believe that? It’s the truth.”
“And then, it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth,'” he said.
Police have said they have not found surveillance video that shows the alleged assault and battery, but they then released images of the “potential persons of interest” from a surveillance camera near where Smollett says he was attacked.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie T. Johnson has said he has no reason to believe Smollett is “not being genuine with” investigators.
As for Smollett, the actor said the incident has left a deep mark.
“I will never be the man that this did not happen to,” Smollett said. “I am forever changed.”