Police release a grainy image of the ‘persons of interest’ in Jussie Smollett’s attack

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As I was researching this update on Jussie Smollett and the racist, homophobic hate crime against him, I searched his name on Twitter and I saw that common searches this week are “Jussie Smollett hoax” and “Jussie Smollett lied.” I’m shocked…that it took this long for the tin-foil MAGA conspiracists to really get going. It was always going to happen, as soon as the detail about his attackers saying “this is MAGA country,” there would always be wingnuts looking to claim that Smollett was lying about this, that or the other. Unsurprisingly, TMZ has started getting shady in how they present certain details too. The update is that Chicago police have released grainy, blurry images of the two “persons of interest” in connection with Smollett’s assault. Here’s the image:

Chicago police are asking for help identifying these two figures, but I have my doubts about whether anyone will really know much simply from this photo. Right now, these men are just being called “persons of interest wanted for questioning” not “suspects.” Here’s some of TMZ’s reporting:

Jussie says two men in ski masks jumped him, beat him up, doused him with bleach and left a rope around his neck before fleeing. He says they yelled, “MAGA country” as they got away. We’ve confirmed Jussie’s manager Brandon Z. Moore told police he was on the phone with Jussie during the alleged attack. Brandon says he told cops he clearly heard the MAGA comment as well as the racial and homophobic slurs.

Cops say the two people in the image were walking on New Street near the intersection with E. Illinois Street between 1:30 AM and 1:45 AM. They’re about a block from the Subway restaurant Jussie had gone to Tuesday morning … and roughly halfway between the restaurant and Jussie’s home. Our law enforcement sources tell us detectives have scoured camera footage in the area and, to this point, haven’t seen any sign of the alleged attack or Jussie’s assailants.

According to local reporter, Rob Elgas, Smollett was seen on surveillance camera walking on the opposite side of the street at the two persons of interest. Elgas claims both Smollett and the unidentified people then walk off camera (on different cameras). Smollett is unaccounted for on camera for about 60 seconds. He then reappears on surveillance entering a condo building with what appears to be street salt on his sweater and the rope around his neck. Jussie arrives at a friend’s place where police arrive to take a report.

We’ve confirmed with law enforcement sources that Smollett refused to turn his cellphone over to authorities after telling them he was on the phone with his manager during the incident.

[From TMZ]

“We’ve confirmed with law enforcement sources that Smollett refused to turn his cellphone over to authorities after telling them he was on the phone with his manager during the incident.” That detail is supposed to be telling us something, but all it’s telling me is that Jussie didn’t want his cellphone to sit in police evidence for months. Surely there are a million other ways to confirm that Jussie was on the phone with his manager? Phone records, perchance? Anyway, this is the moment when everything Jussie has said and done will be nitpicked and investigated, not only by the police, but by MAGA conspiracists. As I said, it was always going to happen. Be vigilant.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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64 Responses to “Police release a grainy image of the ‘persons of interest’ in Jussie Smollett’s attack”

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  1. Bryn says:

    It sure didn’t take long for the conspiracies to start. Can’t blame him for not giving up his phone, I don’t see why the cops would need it anyway, it’s his right to say no, he isn’t a criminal

    • boredblond says:

      I’m guessing they need to ascertain who knew exactly where he was and when..this isn’t some random crime, and if he texted somebody that he was going for a sandwich, I’d sure be checking the recipient, would also check out any pa’s that knew his travel schedule..it was obviously planned, and so they have to know who had the info to plan it. Those vague pics aren’t going to help unfortunately.

      • Steph says:

        Jussie told the whole world where he was. He posted on IG that he was happy he finally landed after 7 hrs on a flight that should have been 2 an hr before the assault. That’s going to make it harder to narrow it down.

    • Mia says:

      I was thinking maybe he doesn’t want photos in his phone leaked. Which would probably happen if he gave them his phone. Folks victim shaming him big time.

      • Sarah B says:

        Mia, that was my first thought, too.

      • lucy2 says:

        I think you are right. Even if it’s nothing risque, it’d be a gross invasion of his privacy. And unless the call was somehow recorded, I can’t see what the point of them taking his phone would be. They know his location, they can see the record of the call and the time.

      • ByTheSea says:

        And you know someone would make copies of whatever and run to tmz for a payout.

    • megs283 says:

      I know, I can barely read the post because it’s so upsetting. I just read an article in the Boston Globe…supposedly we are “enlightened” in Massachusetts – and all the comments are trolls saying things like “never happened” and he’s “trying to build his career.” It makes me sick.

  2. Alissa says:

    my boss told me yesterday that he thinks it’s a hoax. he also told me about how he just bought six maga hats. 😑😑😑

    • Devon says:

      Time to find a new job?

      • Alissa says:

        The frustrating thing is that he’s actually a great boss and it’s a great job. But I am surrounded by Trump voters.

      • Kathy L says:

        Let’s get this straight: Alissa has a great job, with a great boss, meaningful work.

        But girlfriend just caaaaaaan’t deal with having people who support our President in the same space, breathing the same air, making the workplace great.

        Bigoted POS, Alissa. A look in the mirror might be helpful.

    • Kitten says:

      Good. Wear the hate so we know who you are.

    • Snowflake says:

      Oh, girl, i feel you. I just moved to the Panhandle of Florida and every restaurant has Fox News on their TV. I’m surrounded by Trumpsters. I try to avoid politics at all costs. Because I will go off if they start talking some bullshit.

      • Kathy L says:

        So go, Flake. Give us your worst.

        “You racis!” OK, we’re all racists.

        “You … uh… REALLY racis!” OK, we’re really racists who like red hats.

        “You… Trumpsters… REALLY REALLY racis!”

        Go ahead, Flake. Have at it. I’ve given you a start.

  3. Sash says:

    I think there’s a cover up. That’s the ONLY footage they could find? I smell a rat. Poor Jussie.

  4. Mia4s says:

    Oof if that’s the only image they have, that’s a problem. Probably best to put up a heck of a reward and hope they brag to the wrong person.

    There’s avenues to investigate though. He was clearly targeted and I’d say would have been followed. No offence to Mr. Smollett but I could trip over him and wouldn’t know who he was. You’d have to be a pretty big Empire fan to recognize him on a dark street in the middle of the night (not likely here). They’ll have been around, they’ll have made contact at some point. They were waiting for an opportunity.

  5. Dragonlady sakura says:

    I believe him and don’t think he’d risk his promising career on a criminal lie. Internet “sleuths “ are already calling this a hoax and many sites I’ve been on say this is just a liberal anti-Trump witch hunt. 🤬

    • Kitten says:

      Exactly. WHY WOULD HE LIE ABOUT THIS?? I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer to this question from the Tin Foil MAGA Hat crowd. He’s not some thirsty nobody looking for 15 minutes, he’s a seasoned, talented actor on a hit TV show. He literally has ZERO reason to lie about this. ZERO.

      And there are people speculating that it was a hook-up gone wrong. Um, ok. Except he’s an openly gay actor–not like he’s on the DL trying to hide something. He has no reason to make this up. I’m just…so effin infuriated. So utterly EXHAUSTED with these terrible MAGA people but these are the people who think the Parkland activists are crisis actors and that Nathan Phillips is a Soros plant so…no surprises I guess.

      • Esmom says:

        Everything you said, Kitten. I’m beyond exhausted by the MAGAts’ willful ignorance. This insistence on discrediting anything and everything that reflects poorly on Trump is one of the worst parts of this nightmare we’re living through.

      • Christina says:

        I was on another blog frequented by the Black community, and they were questioning his story as badly as the MAGAs. The homophobia broke my heart.

  6. Swack says:

    I can go on my phone account and see exactly what calls were made and received. No reason to take the phone.

    • Kitten says:


    • TQB says:

      And this can (and probably should!) be verified by the cell phone carrier. No need for the phone. I’m betting they said “We can take your phone as evidence, but we’ll have to keep it” and gave him the option of consenting to the release of his cell logs. That still gets translated as “refused to turn over his phone.” Also, as a general matter F the implication of guilt by someone declining to do something requested by police – it was clearly within his rights to say no.

    • isabelle says:

      I sat on a jury where they pulled a persons whole phone without touching it. You do need a warrant I think to do it I think?

  7. RBC says:

    The smear campaign has only just started on Jussie. The tabloids, MAGA supporters etc are probably right now digging through every aspect of his life, past and present to discredit him.

  8. H says:

    This is why I worry for my baby brother who is gay and living in a big city. In this time of Trump, no minority is safe.

    • Aang says:

      I’m there with you. Every time my trans son leaves the house I’m worried.

    • Kitten says:

      It can happen anywhere but generally-speaking I’d say he’s safer in a big city than in a rural area. Mainly because there are larger LGBTQ communities in urban areas and there is power and safety in numbers.

      But the point is that you and Aang shouldn’t have to live in fear for your loved ones. I’m sorry because that ain’t right.

    • J.Mo says:

      I’m a visible minority and felt the need to give my pale rosy cheeked teen a talk on white privilege a couple years ago when they took a headline lightly that bothered my mother and I. Now that they’re openly non-binary and trans, I rue the day I thought my kid was inherently safer than me. We’ve considered travel destinations this spring break and summer and its an eye opener for my baby who just wants to mind their own business and see the world.

  9. Piper says:

    I hate this story and what they did to him. I pray they catch these guys.

  10. Lucky says:

    The hoax stories started right away. I agree, I don’t think he would risk his career for a lie like this. There is no talking or reasoning with Trumpers.

  11. Erinn says:

    I won’t lie – when I first heard this story break and had only heard the “two men yelling MAGA crap attacked…” I thought “please don’t be making this up” – and it’s nothing against him. It’s more of a fear that more ammunition will be given to the asshats that support the current occupant of the white house. And it makes me sad that that’s my first thought. It wasn’t a case of “I think he’s lying” – but there was a certain feeling of dread. As soon as I sat down and read about the incident I stopped worrying. I do believe him, and I don’t see why they’d need to actually take his phone. They could just get phone records, he could SHOW him his calls in and out and screen shot it… the physical phone really shouldn’t be needed.

    • Kitten says:

      I know what you’re getting at, Erinn. It’s frustrating because you know that the MAGA crowd would use one lie or made-up story to discredit future incidents of MAGA violence. I mean, look, they already pretend that all the violence we’ve had from militia/white nationalist groups has no connection to Trumpism, even though the majority of those perpetrators are Trump-supporters.

      So yeah, I get your uneasiness. But we have to remember that Jussie’s story isn’t believable because we WANT to believe it, it’s believable because the statistics don’t lie: Trump has emboldened racists, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, and generally awful people. As a black, gay man Jussie was always at risk to be targeted–even before the 2016 election–but he is undoubtedly more vulnerable now that Trump is in office. That’s just facts.

    • Kathy L says:

      Believe away, child.

      Zero evidence. Tons of self-pity. Plenty of bigotry on your part against people who don’t look like you and believe things different from you.

      Now imagine a week from now when we find that he made it up, and he bawls on camera for Ellen. “Guh huh, boo hoo, I jus’ wanted to make a statement…”

      Wait for it.

  12. Rapunzel says:

    Weren’t the cops initially saying they didn’t see anyone at all on the cameras? Then this? Very shady. And by shady I mean the cops, not Jussie. I believe him as I see no reason for him to make this up. But the MAGAts have conspiracy theories to explain away everything. So they will never believe. Even if these guys are caught.

  13. Steph says:

    Outside of murder does premeditation mean anything in a crime? Also if it does, the guys were clearly out hunting. No one walks around with bleach and rope at 2am and they aren’t things that were just lying around for them to pick up and use during the attack. If they weren’t specifically hunting Jussie but looking for anyone who met their hate ideals, is it still premeditation?

    I absolutely believe him. Whether it was random or he knows them (but doesn’t realize it) I have no idea.

    • Kebbie says:

      They also managed to attack him off cameras, which sounds like a feat. Are these guys incredibly lucky or did they plan this thing extensively?

    • sa says:

      I would guess that a premeditated assault is probably a higher degree of assault than something that happens in the heat of the moment.

  14. Rise above says:

    These asshats remind me of death eater tactics. Constant vigilance is my motto these days.

  15. B n A fan says:

    Looking at the grainy photos, IMO the person on the right appears to be a woman. There are a lot a word on the street that this may not be as being told by him. As someone with lesbian in the family I’m hoping we will get to the bottom so the whispering can stop, and Justice served.

  16. pleasebekind says:

    Yes! The person on the right definitely looks like a girl oh, maybe that’s how they recognized him? She probably watched the show.

  17. Jen says:

    The Tribune reported that Jussie and his manager refused to turn over their phone records, not their phones.

    I was confused about that because the police said they needed them because of Jussie and his manager’s “financial relationship.” Are they saying because their finances are connected, they need to prove this is true on their own? I wish they would to shut people up but I would also feel insulted if I was a victim of a crime and was asked to turn over my phone records, to be honest.

  18. Tiffany27 says:

    Like, he checked into a hospital!! How can people think he’s lying?? So he walked into multiple poles and poured bleach on himself so he could stick it to MAGA idiots??? As if he gives 2 shi*s what those a**holes think. People are so repulsive sometimes it turns my stomach. And no, the police can’t get my phone either. Black Americans already have a tense relationship with law enforcement so yeah, you can look at my phone, but you ain’t keeping it AT ALL.

    • minx says:

      That was my first thought, wasn’t he badly injured?

    • wig says:

      nobody is probably paying attention any more, but smollett recently said he didn’t check into the hospital and didn’t have a broken rib. He said he was bruised. The bleach comment is unconfirmed as he told police it was a “chemical substance” that stained his sweatshirt and fur. Police didn’t ask to keep his phone, they asked to look at the call history.

  19. OriginalLala says:

    This story hurts my soul – I can’t imagine the terror he was feeling when they put a frigging noose around his neck…that is so truly horrifying.

    Most days I am truly ashamed to be human.

  20. JoJo says:

    TMZ has a post about a neighbor of Jussie’s who gave a very detailed discription of a white man who was outside their bulding about 12:30 am when she went to walk her dog.She said he had a rope or clothesline.Hours later she heard about the attack and gave her numbers to detectives.
    BTW I live in South Texas and hate cold weather so it’s always so interesting to me when I read about people in places like Chicago outside in the wee hours on the morning when it’s 0 degrees : )

  21. Steff says:

    I’m really scared they will never find his attackers.

  22. Lala11_7 says:

    Folks don’t understand how completely…and utterly RACIST the Chicago Police Department is…and has ALWAYS been…I’ve lived here all my life…and I know THAT for a FACT…Jussie is very acclimated with this rancid police department as he’s very activate with #BLM….so I don’t blame him for not turning over his phone…and it surprised me…NOT IN THE LEAST that he got jumped by racists POS in that area…it happens ALL THE TIME…it just don’t usually make the news…

  23. livealot says:

    As long as the victims are black , the assailant will always be given the benefit of the doubt, protected, and or taken into custody peacefully.


    • isabelle says:

      If the attackers are black, the right will believe it happened. No false flags, no conspiracy theories, if it is a black or brown person, they will believe it happened 100%.

  24. banga says:

    Just here to point out the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago endorsed Trump.


  25. EJW says:

    I don’t know why anyone would waste their time having online debates with the MAGA crowd. I’m more interested in discussing who the Democrat candidate should be with other progressives.

    • Kitten says:

      Yes because a discussion about who the Left wants for a 2020 candidate never, ever eveeeeeer ends in an argument and is always a productive, healthy conversation lols.

      You must not be on Twitter much.
      (Good for you)

  26. AG-UK says:

    Can’t they just get the lugs (LO speak) which details all calls to/from his phone. No need to keep his phone. I like Chicago And I am from the South and it’s the only place someone called me the n word.

  27. CES says:

    What would someone go through that much trouble to make something up? People never cease to amaze…well disappoint me.

  28. stormsmama says:

    maybe he was baited into meeting someone? maybe he KNOWS who did it? maybe he was in contact with that person and is now deeply embarrassed and ashamed…maybe that’s why he went to a friends place first? Maybe he didn’t think he’d be believed? maybe he thought it would turn into a victim blaming assault on him and everything in his life?
    It doest change the fact that he was attacked! It doesn’t change the fact that he was terrorized!
    i don’t know what exactly happened
    BUT I PRAY HIS ATTACKERS ARE FOUND and that there is justice for him