A man who reportedly lives in the same Chicago neighborhood as “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has publicly expressed doubt about Smollett’s claims that he was attacked by two men because of his race and sexual orientation.
Smollett was allegedly attacked by two unknown assailants on Jan. 29 after leaving a Subway restaurant at around 2 a.m. He reportedly told police that the men used racial and homophobic slurs before beating him, pouring what may have been bleach onto him, and leaving a noose around his neck before proclaiming, “This is MAGA country,” as they left.
But Agin Muhammad, who says he lives in the same building as Smollett, told the New York Post that he doubts the attack happened as reported.
“I don’t believe it happened the way he said it did,” Muhammad said. “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.”
An unidentified patron at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub, a bar located in the same neighborhood as Smollett 's building, told the Post that the actor’s claims are “a lie” because “Chicago is the most liberal city around.”
“They have cameras everywhere. … Why can’t they find the attack?” he said.
Smollett was treated for minor injuries following the alleged attack after transporting himself to a local hospital. Police are continuing to investigate the alleged attack and have released surveillance images of two unidentified men who are persons of interest in the case. Police have also recently acquired more surveillance footage of the surrounding area and are in the process of reviewing said footage, authorities announced last week.
Smollett performed on Feb. 2 for the first time following the alleged attack. In addition to thanking his fans for their support, he also seemingly addressed those who doubt the truthfulness of his story, referring to “hateful rhetoric that gets passed around” and stating that such talk will stop with “the people that believe in love.” He also said in an earlier statement that he’d been “100% factual and consistent on every level” when working with police.
“Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” he said in his first statement following the alleged attack.
Amid the ongoing debate on social media, Smollett is not without local support. A statement from someone else who lives in his building supports the actor’s claims. An unidentified woman told TMZ that she was out walking her dog hours before the alleged attack occurred when she saw a man who “looked out of place” loitering around the building’s parking garage with what looked like a rope hanging from the bottom of his sweater. She said that the man with the rope was staring at another man who was standing near a different entrance to the apartment building, according to TMZ.
Further lending credence to Smollett’s claims, police have confirmed to the outlet that surveillance footage from Smollett’s building shows the actor walking around with rope around his neck. They have yet to locate footage of the actual attack.
Smollett was heavily criticized following reports that he refused to give up his phone to police when they asked to confirm his claim that he’d been on the phone with his manager when he was attacked. A source close to the actor told TMZ that that was never the case, however, and that Smollett said that he felt “uncomfortable” surrendering his phone when police “informally asked,” but that they never brought up phone records. Smollett has already agreed to surrender his phone records and is in the process of gathering them, according to TMZ.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that police are still treating Smollett as the victim of a crime, but he will be held accountable if he’s found to have made a false police report, journalist Rafer Weigel tweeted earlier this month.
[Photo: Getty Images]
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