BREAKING NEWS : Indiana State Police investigate death of inmate at Wells County Jail in isolated cell Full Story

Here's why Chicago's police chief says the Jussie Smollett case is so personal

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson discusses the case his department has against actor Jussie Smollett, who has claimed he was attacked by two people.

Posted: Feb 26, 2019 8:20 AM
Updated: Feb 26, 2019 3:26 PM


When Eddie Johnson landed the top spot as Chicago's police superintendent, his to-do list was a long, tough one.

Reduce violent crime, maintain the mayor's support, boost police morale, rebuild the shattered trust of the community and build a more transparent, accountable department.

Nearly three years later, the chief can tout some impressive crime drops. Last month had the lowest number of homicides in a January in nine years. And in 2018, overall crime in the city was down 10% since 2016.

It's a lot of progress, Johnson told CNN's Don Lemon Monday night. And he doesn't want the Jussie Smollett case to overshadow those strides of improvement.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were "yelling out racial and homophobic slurs" and "poured an unknown chemical substance" on him, according to police. He also said one of the attackers put a rope around his neck, which a police spokesman said was shaped like a noose.

The "Empire" actor said one of the attackers said, "This MAGA country, n****r," during the incident, police said.

But as the police investigation unfolded, Smollett went from hate crime victim to primary suspect.

And the Smollett case, Johnson said, could cause problems for a city that's otherwise progressing.

'We don't want to lose that momentum'

Johnson said Monday he made a "pact" with the city's mayor when he began leading the department that "we would do everything we could to make Chicago safer."

"We've made a lot of progress in the past three years," he said. "Crime is down, we have built up and repaired relationships in the black communities, the black and brown communities. So we don't want to lose that momentum."

And he said he doesn't want "manufactured things" -- like the "bogus police report" he says Smollett filed -- to "stunt that growth."

"The numbers are going the right way, the right direction," he said. "That's a good thing."

"I don't want anything to disrupt that (progress) unless it's earned," he said. "I just don't understand the nature of something like this because it could really cause an issue in this city."

Smollett initially said his attackers were 'white-skinned'

The chief stood firm in saying that the evidence police uncovered later in the investigation did not corroborate Smollett's initial description of the attack.

"Our job is to let the facts guide us to where we go," Johnson said, adding that the actor initially said he saw through the attackers' masks and reported they were "white-skinned people."

"But the facts guided us in a different direction," Johnson said. "I would tell you this also -- we classified him as a victim. We gave him the benefit of the doubt all the way up to the 47th hour of the 48th hour that we could hold those two brothers in custody."

Police say Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage an attack on him. He faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for falsely claiming he was attacked, police say. Johnson has said Smollett took "advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."

Smollett has maintained he was truthful about the incident.

A statement on behalf of the actor called his bail hearing an "organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system."

"Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing," the statement said.

Under Illinois law, filing a false police report is disorderly conduct and punishable by one to three years in prison. Smollett is due back in court March 14.

Authorities said Smollett was dissatisfied with his salary on the show and wanted publicity when he filed the police report.

Executive producers of "Empire" said last week that while they were waiting for the legal process to play out, they would remove Smollett's character from the season's final two episodes.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111505

Reported Deaths: 3506
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20699758
Lake10217318
Elkhart6368109
St. Joseph604597
Allen5965200
Hamilton4676109
Vanderburgh334129
Hendricks2650122
Monroe240836
Johnson2257122
Tippecanoe221013
Clark211756
Porter205244
Cass19319
Delaware187061
Vigo176622
Madison157775
LaPorte136737
Floyd130361
Howard127563
Kosciusko119017
Bartholomew114957
Warrick114135
Marshall98524
Dubois94918
Boone94446
Hancock90542
Grant88233
Noble88132
Henry76324
Wayne73914
Jackson7349
Morgan69638
Shelby66529
Daviess64127
LaGrange63011
Dearborn62628
Clinton59112
Harrison56024
Putnam5329
Montgomery50521
Lawrence50328
Knox4869
White47914
Gibson4744
Decatur45339
DeKalb45011
Miami4243
Fayette41813
Greene41835
Jasper3822
Steuben3677
Scott35310
Sullivan32912
Jennings30912
Posey3020
Franklin29725
Clay2925
Orange28224
Ripley2788
Carroll27013
Wabash2638
Washington2581
Whitley2526
Starke2517
Wells2472
Adams2443
Jefferson2433
Fulton2352
Huntington2213
Spencer2194
Tipton21722
Perry20913
Randolph2067
Jay1700
Newton17011
Owen1641
Martin1620
Rush1514
Pike1411
Vermillion1260
Fountain1152
Pulaski1141
Blackford1132
Crawford1030
Brown1013
Parke932
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland680
Warren401
Unassigned0225

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 144309

Reported Deaths: 4615
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin25977603
Cuyahoga17092642
Hamilton12756308
Montgomery7501152
Lucas7119357
Butler563299
Summit5096249
Marion306347
Mahoning2991279
Warren291048
Stark2739168
Pickaway263344
Lorain226386
Delaware213520
Fairfield202050
Columbiana191980
Licking185762
Trumbull1848131
Clark172338
Wood170671
Clermont162620
Lake157649
Medina143038
Allen136767
Greene135228
Miami135049
Portage107466
Mercer105317
Tuscarawas91220
Wayne90166
Erie89944
Ross85622
Richland78419
Madison78012
Darke76039
Belmont70727
Geauga70347
Hancock6579
Ashtabula64348
Athens5972
Lawrence59418
Shelby5819
Auglaize5659
Sandusky55420
Putnam54123
Huron5237
Union4932
Ottawa46530
Scioto4646
Seneca43914
Preble42013
Holmes3717
Muskingum3712
Jefferson3184
Henry29712
Champaign2933
Logan2933
Perry2859
Defiance28110
Clinton27813
Knox27815
Brown2752
Hardin25013
Morrow2492
Washington24823
Fulton2341
Jackson2314
Coshocton23011
Fayette2256
Ashland2234
Highland2203
Crawford2186
Wyandot20112
Williams1983
Gallia18012
Meigs1729
Hocking1619
Pike1580
Guernsey1567
Carroll1507
Adams1214
Van Wert1113
Monroe10618
Paulding1010
Harrison611
Morgan470
Vinton453
Noble270
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 73°
Angola
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntington
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 72°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 73°
Warming up for Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events