In the less than four weeks since "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett reported being attacked by two men in Chicago, police detectives followed the case from an alleged hate crime to an apparent staged incident. Smollett has since been charged with felony disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
Here is how police investigated the actor's claims, interviewing more than 100 people and executing more than 50 search warrants and subpoenas to arrive at the charges. The timeline, as told by Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki, is below.
Timeline: Chicago Police Investigation of Jussie Smollett Incident
- At 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, Smollett reports he was the victim of a hate crime. Detectives respond and interview Smollett at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he reports that two male offenders yelled racial and homophobic and political statements at him. Smollett says the men beat him, put a noose around his neck, threw bleach at him and fled.
- Police report Smollett had scratches on his face and bruises but no broken ribs or serious injuries.
- Chicago Police begin a full-scale investigation into Smollett's report of a hate crime.
- Police quickly find two persons of interest on video that detectives believe were the likely offenders in the case. Police issue a "seeking to identify" and community alert.
- Police search the area for video cameras and witnesses that can help with the investigation. During that time, detectives interview over 100 individuals in a canvass of the area and a follow-up canvass as the investigation expands.
- Detectives locate about 35 Chicago Police surveillance "pod" cameras and more than 20 private cameras that help determine where the two persons of interest fled after the incident. "The city came together to investigate and help the police with this crime," Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki said.
- Cameras reveal the two persons of interest eventually got into a cab after fleeing the scene of the incident. Investigators locate the cab and interview the driver and got video from the cab, which took them to the city's North Side. Cameras show the two persons of interest abruptly stopped the cab, got out and walked on foot.
- Detectives begin tracking the two persons of interest "backwards to where they came from" en route to the incident. Police follow them walking around and getting out of a cab. Detectives interview that cab's driver.
- Detectives find the cab was tracked down by the persons of interest in a ride-share car. Detectives follow up on the ride-share car, giving police "the lead that we needed in order to identify the two persons of interest."
- Detectives solidify a timeline and name both persons of interest. "It was at that time that we started looking at where they went right after this event."
- Detectives track them, identified as two brothers, going to O'Hare International Airport and boarding a flight to Nigeria. The brothers purchased a roundtrip ticket with a return date of Feb. 13 back to Chicago.
- While police await the brothers' return, detectives execute more than 50 search warrants and subpoenas, work with the state's attorneys office to obtain phone records, social media records and individual's records "to help us illuminate the likely facts that occurred in this event."
- On Feb. 13, police put a team in place with the FBI, customs and airport partners to locate the brothers as they re-enter into the U.S. at customs and take them into custody. Both men ask for an attorney.
- The brothers are brought to Area Central Headquarters to be processed. Their attorney arrives.
- Their attorney tells police that after speaking with her clients, she says "something smelled fishy" and she doesn't think they are the offenders as reported.
- The attorney works closely with police and allows her clients to talk to police in a video interview. "It was at that time that this investigation started to spin in an entirely new direction."
- Police substantiate the information from the brothers' interview, working closely with the state attorney's office.
- On Feb. 15, after about 47 hours of the brothers being in custody and hours of them meeting with police and telling police their story, they are released without charges. They are now classified as witnesses.
- On Tuesday, Feb. 19, police schedule a appointment with the grand jury working with Illinois State Police to lock the witnesses into a grand jury statement.
- At the last minute, Smollett's lawyers call and say they had evidence to postpone the grand jury.
- Wodnicki meets with Smollett's lawyers and a team of detectives. The lawyers give no new information, Wodnicki said.
- Wodnicki reports the update to the state's attorney's office and lock in both witness statements to the grand jury. "I'm told they did an excellent job."
- The state's attorney office approves charges against Smollett for Class 4 disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
- Detectives meet with Smollett's attorneys and arrange for him to turn himself in, which he did at 5 a.m. Thursday in the 1st District.