Chicago police are saying the case has “shifted.”
Chicago police said their investigation into the Jan. 29 apparent hate attack on Jussie Smollett has “shifted,” the Associated Press reported on Saturday, while attorneys for the Empire actor said he is “angered and devastated by recent reports” claiming police believe he orchestrated the attack.
The developments came hours after multiple outlets reported that the two brothers who were arrested and released without charges in the case have reportedly claimed that the Empire star paid them to stage the incident.
According to CBS Evening News, a police source told the outlet on Saturday that the brothers said Smollett paid them to participate in the alleged incident and purchase the rope that was found around the star’s neck.
CNN reported on Saturday that two Chicago police sources said investigators believe Smollett paid the men in exchange for carrying out the attack and the men are now fully cooperating with authorities.
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement, according to the AP. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
“Detectives have reached out to his attorneys hoping to speak with him again,” Chicago police spokesman Thomas J. Ahern later said in a statement to PEOPLE.
Smollett responded to the reports in a statement released by his attorneys on Saturday. “As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” Smollett’s lawyers said. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continues. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate,” Smollett’s attorneys added. “At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”
A rep for Fox, which airs Empire, had no comment, while the brothers’ attorney did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
On Friday evening, Chicago Police Department chief communications officer Guglielmi said on Twitter that the men had been released after being called in for questioning by authorities.
“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging,” he tweeted.
“Detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Guglielmi added.
A spokeswoman previously told PEOPLE the pair was arrested Wednesday evening. Because they were not charged, police withheld identifying information about them.
The police spokeswoman also confirmed the suspects are the same people as those previously identified as persons of interest.
An attorney for the men, Gloria Schmidt, told CBS Chicago on Thursday that the men know Smollett from working on Empire and go to the same gym on occasion. Schmidt did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Officials also recently denied reports that the attack on Smollett was staged.
“While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax,” Guglielmi told PEOPLE in a statement. “The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect.”
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement Thursday, responding to the claims. “The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous,” the statement said, adding, “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”