Abimbola Osundairo – an aspiring actor also known as Abel Osundairo – was named as one of two “potential suspects” in the alleged attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who had alleged he was subjected to an early morning homophobic and racist attack by masked men shouting “MAGA country.” The other man who was taken into custody was Abel’s brother, Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo.
The brothers, who are from Nigeria but played high school athletics in Illinois, were named by TMZ, which alleges they were booked “for battery.” Their first names appear in a search warrant published by a Chicago television reporter.
On February 20, 2019, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct and accused of filing a false report.
“Case Update: 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 and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” the Chicago police spokesman wrote on the evening of February 15, 2019. However, Chicago police later told Entertainment Weekly: “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. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
This, and other reporting that alleged police were investigating whether Smollett paid the brothers to stage the attack, led to a furious denial from Smollett, who told EW: “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. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.” His lawyers told the entertainment site that one of the brothers was his personal trainer for a music video.
Both men have had guest roles on Chicago television shows and run businesses together. Abel is focused on bodybuilding and fitness. According to the Chicago Tribune, police, after first labeling the brothers persons of interest, are now calling them “potential suspects” and say that detectives have “probable cause” that they may have committed a crime. They have not been criminally charged, and authorities have said little else. The men are under arrest, per Charlie De Mar, a reporter for Chicago CBS. In what now comes across as unintentional irony, Abel’s YouTube Channel even contains a YouTube video that is labeled as Ola’s “interrogation scene.”
“When they first learned about what happened to him (Smollett) they were horrified. This is someone they know. This is someone they’ve worked with, so they don’t want to see somebody go through that,” the attorney for the brothers told CBS Chicago. The lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, also told CBS Chicago that her clients “are baffled about why they are people of interest. It’s an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it’s not my guys
Since Jussie Smollett alleged to Chicago police that he was attacked, numerous questions have been raised about his story. Chicago police previously released a grainy surveillance video that they said contained the images of two people who were in the area at the time. Smollett previously told ABC that the persons of interest in the grainy video were his alleged attackers: “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.” It’s not clear whether police think the brothers are the people in the grainy POI photos, though.
Yet even his own attorney acknowledges that Smollett knows Abimbola Osundairo and his brother through the Empire television program. TMZ is reporting that Smollett may be asked to identify his attackers in a line-up but notes that Smollett said his attackers were white. The Osundairo brothers are black.
The development came after Smollett went on television and reiterated that he was attacked, saying, “I want to believe, with everything that has happened, that there is something called justice.”
However, Charlie DeMar, CBS Chicago reporter, wrote, “UPDATE: Attorney for two men in custody says she spoke with CPD detectives and charges (at least against the two brothers In custody) are expected before 5:45pm Friday. That is when the 48-Hour hold expires.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Osundairo Brothers Sold ‘Winter Face Masks’ & Run a Chicago-area Party Supply Store
On Facebook, Abel Osundairo and his brother sold winter face masks. (Smollett had claimed his alleged attackers wore masks). “Winter face masks $20 + free shipping,” an advertisement on Facebook says. They also advertised black hoodies. The men, who are from Nigeria, registered an LLC called “PARTY TIME. THE B’S OSUNDAIRO, LLC.” They have a limited business license to sell retail merchandise through the Chicago-based store.
One reviewer on Yelp for the Party Time store wrote, “Had to put together a last minute party and needed something close and reasonably priced. This place was awesome, it’s in the strip mall on Kimball and Irving. I was able to get all the balloons and favors I needed etc. They also have Trump piñatas!” You can see photos of their store here.
On Instagram, Abel Osundairo also posted a picture in traditional Nigerian clothing, writing, “Happy Nigerian 🇳🇬 Independence Day.”
Some of his posts are religious in nature. “TEAM ABEL…ABEL to do any and all things through our lord and savior Jesus Christ. We are undefined. There are no limits to what we can do and to what we will accomplish. And all of this is through the Grace of G-D,” he wrote on Instagram. “We glorify YOU and will continue to do so by our works and by being stewards of the universe InshaAllah.”
On Instagram, Jussie Smollett is listed as following 616 pages. Osundairo’s Team Abel page is one of them.
Anthony Guglieli, the Chicago police spokesman, revealed on February 14, 2019 that authorities had determined the identities of the two persons of interest. However, he stressed that police were not calling them suspects. However, he also confirmed (without naming the brothers) that they were being questioned. That statement was later updated via email, per the Chicago Tribune, to call the brothers potential suspects.
“To safeguard the investigation, details about the case including timelines & backgrounds of those being questioned by police will not be released or commented on while detectives question persons of interest. Media reports of investigative details cannot be confirmed at this time,” the police spokesman previously wrote on Twitter.
He added: “Important for media reporting: The people of interest are alleged to be in the area where a crime was reported. They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives. We remain in communication with the alleged victim.”
He also wrote, “Through a meticulous investigation, #ChicagoPolice detectives have identified the persons of interest in the area of the alleged attack of the Empire cast member. These individuals are not yet suspects but were in area of concern and are being questioned. Investigation continues.” Again, that was before the “potential suspects” police update came out, though.
When authorities first released the grainy POI photos, they wrote, “Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed.”
2. A Chicago Reporter Alleges the Attack May Have Been Staged But Police Have Not Confirmed This Accusation & Say They Don’t Have Evidence of a ‘Hoax’
Rob Elgas, a reporter for ABC 7 in Chicago, has been tweeting numerous questions and alleged discrepancies in Smollett’s accounts. Keep in mind that authorities have confirmed none of this information, and these contentions remain unconfirmed accusations. Elgas wrote that police were investigating whether the attack was staged.
Chicago police said, though, that they have “no evidence to say that this is a hoax.”
“Interrogations will resume today with the two individuals and their attorney. While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax. The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect. For clarification, the two individuals interviewed are classified as potential suspects. Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime and we are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues,” Guglielmi wrote in an email to CBS Chicago.
The Empire Writers and police pushed back on Twitter at earlier reports that police were investigating whether the attack was staged because Smollett was allegedly going to be written off the show, with the Empire Writers tweeting, “The writers of Empire have never planned or even discussed writing @JussieSmollett off of the show.”
Guglielmi, the Chicago police spokesman, then wrote on Twitter, “Media reports about the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives. Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”
ABC 7 later reported that Smollett released a statement saying, “Today Jussie did answer routine followup questions for Chicago Police Department and continues to cooperate” and stating he was not being written off the show.
In a statement also reported by ABC 7, Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment wrote, “The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
CNN reported that a law enforcement source said that Uber and Yellow Cab helped police pinpoint the persons of interest’s movements that night.
According to AP, Smollett gave Chicago police his phone records but only in redacted form that police deemed insufficient.
3. At Least One Brother Appeared on the Show Empire as an Extra & Abel Is a Bodybuilder
On Facebook, Ola Osundairo wrote that he was “Head of Security at Whiskey Business,” and lives in Chicago, Illinois, coming from Lagos, Nigeria. On Instagram, Abel Osundairo wrote with his profile: “God is Great. Actor 🎥 Building the best Natural Physique on the 🌎. Email 👇🏿 for online coaching.”
Ola acted in a 2015 episode of “Empire,” playing Chris Rock’s prison bodyguard. In an interview with a Quincy University television program, Ola said, “I played a prison inmate. I was handpicked by the director to play as Chris Rock’s bodyguard in prison. I actually started watching the show when I was cast to be on it. Ever since then I have been staying tuned.” Ola Osundairo has a YouTube channel with a couple of videos on it.
“My time at QU prepared me and taught me how to conduct myself and behave professionally around a large group of people.” said Osundairo in the Quincy interview. “On set you meet so many people that you have been watching on TV your whole life, and to actually hold a conversation with them is intimidating at first.”
On Instagram, Abel Osundairo posted a photo of his brother in orange prison dress from what appeared to be an Empire scene, writing, “Ummmm … #prisonlife? 💋 #freelucious #empireseason2 #day1 #bigdaddylostintheyard 👀”
On January 9, Abel used a Smollett song with a posing video:
“Practicing my posing routine with an unexpected visitor 🐺 @inbaglobal_official he wants to be in the show. What do you say? Song by: @jussiesmollett ha ha (i love you),” he wrote on Instagram.
The brothers appear to have lived in Illinois since at least high school. Quincy University’s 2012 roster says, “Abimbola was born Sept. 4, 1993… he is the son of Lanre Osundairo… he has two brothers… his brother, Olabinjo, is a running back for the Hawks.” The site adds that Abel Osundairo “participated in football, track and field, soccer and wrestling at Lakeview High School” in Illinois.
The Quincy University website provides these stats for Abimbola Osundairo:
“2013: Played in all 11 games…Recorded 33 total tackles…Had 2.5 tackles for-a-loss…Recovered 2 fumbles returning one for a touchdown against Kentucky Wesleyan College.
2012: Played in 11 games at defensive back… Recorded 20 tackles and forced one fumble on the season… Named to GLVC Academic All-Conference.
2011: Osundairo did not see varsity action.”
Abimbola Usundairo also posted video of a commercial with Mike Ditka.
Abel Osundairo filled his Instagram page with bodybuilding pictures. One picture showed him at a bodybuilding competition holding a large award. “When it’s all said and done, what will you be remembered by? This past weekend was one for the books. ✅” he wrote in the caption.
“I’m officially 6 weeks out from my Professional natural bodybuilding show debut (men’s physique),” he wrote with one bodybuilding picture. “I’m excited and can’t wait but there’s still plenty more work that needs to be done. It’s really time to dial in and to remain focused, to have no distractions, no succumbing to temptations, and making it a priority to be patient with people when I’m short on carbs 😂😂😂”
Abel posted scenes from acting roles. His Instagram profile links to this YouTube channel.
Their attorney Gloria Schmidt, told CBS Chicago that Smollett knows the men.
“They do know Jussie,” she said to the television station. “They have worked with him on Empire. My preliminary investigations show that on set it’s very tight. They’re all very cordial with each other, so they’re baffled why they are people of interest.”
However, other accounts alleged only one of the persons of interest has a tie to the show.
Elgas also alleged, “One of those persons of interest has appeared on Empire. Smollett is also being questioned by police. Chicago police have no new comment. No one has been charged.”
Again, this information has not been confirmed by authorities.
4. The Men Are Accused of Leaving for Nigeria the Day of the Attack, According to Media Reports & Police Raided Their Homes
TMZ alleged that the family of the two persons of interest said they “left for Nigeria the day of the alleged attack. This is consistent with what law enforcement sources previously told TMZ … that the men left for Nigeria and returned Wednesday night, and the police tracked their travels and were waiting for them when they landed in Chicago.”
On Instagram on February 1, 2019, Abel posted a video of himself that he said was in Ogun, Nigeria.
Charlie DeMar, a CBS Chicago reporter, wrote, “BREAKING: Police raided the home of two persons of interest in Jussie Smollett case last night. Both men are of Nigerian descent and have appeared as extras on the show. Police took bleach, shoes electronics and more. Officers asked family if they knew #Jussiesmollett. @cbschicago.”
According to ABC 7, in a search of the men’s homes, “Police removed shoes, electronic devices and other items they believe could help them they determine if the two people played any role in the assault from those homes.”
TMZ also reported that Smollett never alleged that the men he said attacked him were wearing MAGA hats, but, rather, he alleged that they screamed MAGA country at him.
WGN-TV also reported that the two men “were picked upon their arrival at O’Hare International Airport Thursday. Both of them are African American, and at least one of them has a connection to the ‘Empire’ actor.”
5. Abel Osundairo Wrote That He Appeared on the TV Show Chicago PD, Calling Himself ‘the Hottest Nigerian You Know’
In what now seems ironic, Abel wrote on Instagram that he’d appeared on the television show Chicago PD. He wrote on Instagram, “Tonight’s the night. Drop your food, drop your drinks, drop your babies and tune into NBC’s Chicago P.D to see if I’ll be working with Chicago’s finest or will I be on the other side of the law ☻😈☻” In February 2018, he wrote, “You can’t afford to miss next week’s episode of Chicago p.d where the hottest Nigerian you know will be guest starring.”
“Tune in to Chicago PD tonight on NBC and catch me and an awesome cast bring the story of Kenny to life,” he wrote on November 14, 2018. That October, he posted a picture of himself in a Chicago PD director’s chair and wrote, “Issa wrap. Had an amazing time and experience on the set of Chicago PD. Awesome crew and great actors. Stay in tune and watch Chicago PD every Wednesday night 10/9 central on NBC.”
Ola Osundairo has an IMDB profile that mentions Chicago PD.
Abel also posted pictures of scenes.
The story that Smollett gave was horrific, and it sparked a round of empathetic responses from celebrities and others at first. According to WGN-TV, he said that, while walking in Chicago near his apartment in the early morning hours of January 29, two men approached him and placed a rope around his neck and tossed a substance on him.
According to CNN, Smollett said: “So I turned around and said ‘What the f**k did you just say to me’ and I see the attacker masked. He said ‘This MAGA country n****r’ and he punched me in the face so I punched his a** back.”
To CNN, he denied ever saying the men were wearing MAGA hats: “I never said that. I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a f****t, they called me a n****r. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on some racist sundae.”
He further alleged they were masked and “beat him, subjected him to racist and homophobic insults,” reported WGN. According to the television station, Smollett “had cuts and scrapes on his face and the rope around his neck” when police arrived. However, reports say, Smollett did not initially tell police the “MAGA” comment accusation, but later did.
Brandon Z. Moore, Smollett’s manager, later backed up Smollett’s story, telling Variety he was on the phone with Smollett and heard some of the negative remarks directed at him by alleged attackers, “I heard that clearly. I had the scuffle and I heard the racial slur.”