Chicago police said the "limited and heavily redacted" phone records "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett turned over detectives "do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation" as cops continue looking into Smollett's claim he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack late last month, WBBM-TV reported.
Smollett's music manager, Brandon Z. Moore, told ABC News he was on the phone with Smollett during the alleged Jan. 29 attack and heard a "scuffle" and a "racial slur," but Smollett initially refused to release his phone to cops so they could verify the claim.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the New York Post that "we offered to take the phone to download the data, and he expressed he couldn't be without his phone for several hours."
But while Smollett had a change of heart and gave police redacted phone records, the department said they are insufficient.
"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," police told WBBM in an email. "Detectives may be following up with the victim to request additional data to corroborate the investigative timeline."
Guglielmi added to the station that the redactions in the PDF file from Smollett are "extreme" but do include the hour before the alleged attack.
What's the background?
Numerous media outlets ran with a TMZ report saying the openly gay actor was beaten up after walking out of a Subway restaurant around 2 a.m. by two white men wearing ski masks who asked, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?" before pouring bleach on him, putting a noose around his neck, and yelling, "This is MAGA country!"— a reference to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Chicago police told TheBlaze there was "no mention of MAGA" in initial reports, but when detectives followed up with Smollett later on the day of the attack, he recalled the attackers making those comments, and detectives completed a supplemental report.
Police didn't specify the race of the alleged suspects but did call it a "possible racially charged assault and battery" and that they are "treating it as a possible hate crime."
Smollett reportedly wore rope 'like a necktie'
Police told ABC News Smollett was seen on camera walking into an apartment with a rope around his neck and "wearing it like a necktie" before calling cops from inside the building.
CBS News said "when police got to his apartment, they said a noose was still around Smollett's neck."
Rob Elgas of WLS-TV in Chicago reported that "when Smollett contacted police at 2:42AM, he was still wearing the rope around his neck. The alleged encounter occurred at 2AM. Police have the rope and it will be analyzed."
Other curious details:
- According to another tweet from Elgas, "Smollett requested responding Chicago police officers turn off their body cameras as they arrived to take his report. A spokesman says this is not uncommon when officers enter a private residence."
- Elgas added that Chicago police have a security image of Smollett alone inside a Subway sandwich shop near the location of the reported crime, and that cops also obtained additional video placing him at the scene of the crime.
- But sources told CBS News they've seen security video of Smollett outdoors early Tuesday morning and "nothing of an assault."
- The weather in Chicago at midnight Jan. 29 — two hours before the alleged attack — showed a low temperature of 1 degree with 14-mph winds.
Guglielmi told The Associated Press that detectives have looked at hundreds of hours of surveillance video from businesses and hotels in the heavily monitored area and are expanding the search to include footage from public buses and buildings beyond the scene's immediate vicinity in the hopes of spotting the individuals who match Smollett's description.
"We haven't seen anybody, at this point, matching the description he gave," Guglielmi added to the AP.
Although police have since asked for help from the public in identifying two persons of interest from surveillance recordings near the site of the attack near the time it occurred.
The AP added that Chicago has one of the nation's most sophisticated and extensive video surveillance systems, including thousands of cameras on street poles, skyscrapers, buses, and in train tunnels — and that police said such cameras have helped them make thousands of arrests.
Smollett's neighbor doesn't believe the story
"I don't believe it happened the way he said it did," Agin Muhammad, who lives in the same apartment complex as the actor, told the Post. "I've been in this neighborhood five years. I don't believe it, not around here. … Half the people are gay and the other half are black."
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that if police suspect Smollett's story is a hoax, he will be held accountable.
A threatening letter and drawing to Smollett was sent to the Fox television studio in Chicago on Jan. 22, police told ABC News, and it contained a powdery substance that investigators believe was likely crushed-up Tylenol.
The Post said last week it traced Smollett's likely route to the underpass from a 24-hour Subway sandwich shop where he bought a tuna sandwich and a salad, and that near the foot of a stairwell to the Loews, the paper found an empty hot sauce bottle that was partially filled with a clear liquid that smelled like bleach.
Guglielmi told the Post that after police seized the bottle it was turned over to the FBI for analysis; the FBI declined to comment.