Chicago police late Friday released without charges two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting Empire actor Jussie Smollett and said they have new evidence to investigate as a result of questioning them.
“The individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a brief statement.
He gave no details of the new evidence.
Smollett, who is black and gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29 before running away. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
Smollett, 36, said he was out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago when the attack happened.
A spokeswoman for Smollett said she had no comment on the release of the two men Friday.
The two men, identified only as Nigerian brothers, were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Wednesday on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on Empire, Guglielmi said. He said he did not know what the man’s job was.
Guglielmi also said police searched the Chicago apartment where the men lived. But he said he had no information on what was found.
Police earlier this week said there was “no evidence to say that this is a hoax” and that Smollett “continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect.”
Police have said they found no surveillance video of an attack but continue to look. Investigators also said they were contacting stores in the hope of finding out who bought the rope that was around Smollett’s neck.
In an interview with ABC News, the singer and actor said he didn’t remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived “because I wanted them to see.”
Smollett also said he initially refused to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers. He later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for an investigation.