The Chicago Police Department said Monday that it does not have enough evidence to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged assault of Empire actor Jussie Smollett after he turned over “limited and redacted phone records” to detectives.
“We are very appreciative of the victim’s cooperation however the records provided do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation as they were limited and heavily redacted,” Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. “Detectives may be following up with him to request additional data to corroborate the investigative timeline.”
Smollett alleges two masked men attacked him along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood as he was walking home from a restaurant on January 29. The 36-year-old alleges they punched him, hurled racist and homophobic insults at him, poured an unknown chemical substance on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck. Guglielmi said the actor told police that the alleged attackers shouted he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The police report noted that the actor said he initially didn’t want to report the attack, but another person convinced him to do so. The name of the person who encouraged Smollet to call police was redacted in the report, which notes that the person was with Smollet when officers arrived at his Chicago apartment.
When officers arrived at his apartment, Smollett still had a white rope draped around his neck. The report also noted that officers turned off their body cameras at Smollett’s request — a reasonable request from crime victims, according to police.
No arrests have been made but police continue to collect and review surveillance video from the area and look for possible witnesses. Police are also going to stores to ask employees if they recall selling rope to anyone and to determine if security camera footage shows someone buying the kind of rope that was tied, noose-like, around Smollet’s neck.
“We are starting to search stores to see if any of this kind of rope was purchased in the area,” Guglielmi said.
The downtown Chicago area wehre the alleged attack occured has many hotels and restaurants and has widespread surveillance video coverage, and although police have found footage of Smollett making his way home — including video of him arriving at his building with a rope around his neck — they have not found footage of the attack or men fitting his description of his assailants.
Guglielmi tweeted photos of the “persons of interest” one day after the alleged assault.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019
Smollett and his family have defended themselves against allegations leveled on social media that he has been less than cooperative and changed his story. “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” the actor said in a statement to ESSENCE magazine. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served. ”
Several days after the story broke, Smollett gave a concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, telling the audience that if he did not perform his attackers would win. Addressing the nightclub with attendees that included Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Hollywood producer Lee Daniels, Smollett vowed: “I had to be here tonight, y’all. I can’t let the motherfuckers win.”
“I have so many words on my heart. The most important thing I have to say is thank you so much and that I’m okay,” he said. “I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to. And I’m gonna stand strong with y’all. l will always stand for love. I will never stand for anything other than that. Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love. And I hope that you all will stand with me.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.