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Jussie Smollett, the former “Empire” actor accused of staging his own hate crime, had what he said was a noose around his neck when police responded to his report in late January, according to body camera footage Chicago cops released late Monday.
“Do you want to take it off or anything?” one officer asks Smollett, whose face is blurred in the video. The actor, who’s gay and black, had called just Chicago police to allege two men attacked him and bombarded him with racist and hompophobic attacks. He also said the men wrapped a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him.
"I just wanted y'all to see," Smollett says, according to the video. "There's bleach on me,” he adds.
“OK,” the officer responds.
The video is part of a trove of files — nearly 1,200 individual documents and 90 hours of video — that Chicago police released Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, according to the Los Angeles Times. The documents don’t offer much new information but illustrate how Chicago police began to suspect that Smollett orchestrated the attack against himself to boost his image.
Smollett was initially charged with falsifying a police report just weeks after he first called the police in January. Police said the actor paid two men more than $3,500 to stage the assault. But prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges against Smollett with little explanation in late March, although he was never exonerated.
Chicago’s mayor and police department were outraged the charges were dropped after extensive investigative work, and the Chicago Police Department has been gradually releasing the documents that led them to pursue charges against Smollett in the first place. Last month, Chicago police released documents showing all the evidence they collected while investigating Smollett’s claims.
In the documents released Monday, one message shows Commander Edward Wodnicki starting to express doubts just days after Smollett filed his report. On February 1, Wodnicki asked detectives to “verify and I mean verify that the victim got off a plane at O’Hare.” “Big issue if that was a lie,” he wrote, according to the LA Times. “CALL me as soon as this is completed.”
The city of Chicago sued Smollett to recoup $130,000 in investigative costs, which he has refused to pay. Officials also plan to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate why Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped charges against Smollett.
Cover image: This Jan. 29, 2019, image made from police body cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department purports to show Jussie Smollett, with a white rope wrapped around his neck, talking with police officers in his apartment in Chicago. (Chicago Police Department via AP)