(CHICAGO) — When news broke of the alleged racist attack on a star from one of the most popular shows on television, it riveted everyone, drawing the nation into a heated discussion about race, politics and celebrity. But as the investigation continued, growing skepticism about Smollett’s story added enormous pressure on Chicago investigators to get to the bottom of what really happened that night. Here is a timeline of the Jussie Smollett case as it unfolded over the past several weeks.
Jan. 22: Smollett reports to police receiving a threatening letter sent to the Fox studio where ‘Empire’ is filmed, containing threatening language and laced with a powdery substance investigators believe was likely crushed-up Tylenol.
Jan. 29: Smollett is allegedly attacked at 2 a.m. near his apartment in Chicago. Two masked assailants poured ‘an unknown chemical substance’ on him, possibly bleach, and wrapped a rope around his neck, he told police. In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett alleges that the attackers yelled “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.
Jan. 30: Chicago police announce in a tweet that they are seeking two “persons of interest” who were captured on surveillance video near the scene and around the time of the alleged attack.
Jan. 31: Smollett’s family releases and emotional statement describing the alleged attack as a hate crime. “In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime,” the family wrote in the statement to ABC News. “Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
Feb. 1: Smollett releases a new statement thanking his fans and reiterating that his account of the alleged attack has remained consistent. “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” he said in the statement. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
Feb. 2: Smollett makes his first appearance on stage since the alleged attack, performing at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California. “Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love,” Jussie Smollett said, tearing up before beginning his set. “We hope that you all stand with us.”
Feb. 4: Chicago police release the initial incident report about the alleged attack on Smollett. The report reveals that Smollett was apparently reluctant to report the attack, and that when police arrived at his home to interview him, he was still wearing the rope around his neck. The report states that a 60-year-old friend of Smollett called the police on his behalf and said the actor “did not want to report offense however he believed it to be in the best interest to.”
Smollett said the attack happened at around 2 a.m. as he was leaving a Subway restaurant. He told police that two attackers gained his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs and began to beat him “about the face with their hands,” the report said. “The primary aggressor was wearing a black mask concealing any facial features and both offenders were dressed in black,” according to the report. “The victim does not remember any other distinguishing features of the offenders, or in which direction they fled,” it added.
Ten days passed without any developments in the investigation into the alleged attack, prompting growing skepticism about Smollett’s account on social media.
Feb. 13: Unbeknownst to the public, Chicago police investigators had been “tracking the two ‘persons of interest’ and were aware of who they were “for awhile,” a law enforcement source subsequently told ABC News. Investigators learned that these two individuals were returning to Chicago on Feb. 13 from Nigeria and moved in. The pair were detained at the airport, placed under arrest and taken in for questioning.
Feb. 14: In an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, Smollett said he was heartbroken when he found out that people questioned the details of his story. He defended himself against skeptics who pointed out that it wasn’t until a follow-up interview with the police that he mentioned that the assailants were wearing red “MAGA” hats.
“For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing,” Smollett said. “I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a f—-, they called me a n—-. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.”
The same day, Smollett is re-interviewed by Chicago police investigators. By evening, police sources confirm that they obtained search warrants and raided the homes of the two individuals, recovering bleach, shoes, electronics and other items.
Feb. 15: Chicago police announce that they have identified and are questioning the two “persons of interest” captured on a surveillance video.
By midday, a CPD spokesman tells ABC News that the two ‘persons of interest’ are, in fact, under arrest, and acknowledge that the pair has “a relationship with” Smollett. In an unusual move for an ongoing investigation, police officials who had originally described the two as ‘persons of interest’ begin describing the two men as “potential suspects.” But by late that evening, investigators changed course, and announced that the two men have been released without charges.
Feb. 16: Chicago police identify the two men they arrested and later releases as brothers — Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo — both U.S. citizens of Nigerian descent.
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