FILE - In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. Smollett is expressing anger over being attacked outside his Chicago apartment last month. Smollett, who plays a musician on the Fox Network's ''Empire'' talked about his ordeal during an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts to be broadcast Thursday on "Good Morning America." He alleges he was the victim of an attack on Jan. 29 by two masked men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Police questioning 'persons of interest' in Smollett case

February 14, 2019 - 11:52 am

CHICAGO (AP) — Detectives are interviewing two "persons of interest" shows in surveillance photos as being in the area of downtown Chicago where "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett said he was attacked last month, police said Thursday.

The two men aren't considered suspects but may have been in the area at the time that Smollett said he was attacked, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, said two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs before attacking him and putting a rope around his neck around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29.

Guglielmi told The Associated Press that the two men are the same people shown in surveillance photos released last month by police. Guglielmi said the men were identified through the use of advanced technology, interviews with Smollett and witnesses, and transportation records.

Smollett told ABC News in an interview that aired earlier Thursday that people who question his narrative of the attack were "ridiculous" to think he would lie. Smollett has said he was attacked while out getting food at a Subway restaurant.

"I've heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative," he said. "I'm not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That's ridiculous. And it's offensive."

He said he didn't remove the rope before police arrived "because I wanted them to see."

The singer and actor said the attackers also yelled "this is MAGA country," referencing President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. Smollett said earlier reports from some media outlets that his attackers were wearing "MAGA" hats were inaccurate.

"I didn't need to add anything like that," he said. "I don't need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae."

No arrests have been made. Police said they've not found surveillance video that shows the attack but that the investigation is ongoing.

Smollett said he didn't want to call police at first, but that his friend and creative director, Frank Gatson, called on his behalf.

Smollett said he didn't initially want to give police his cellphone for their investigation because the device contains private content and phone numbers. Smollett gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for a criminal investigation.