“Hold me down. They got some kind of threat through the mail”: How the Jussie Smollett saga began

Jussie Smollett | Instagram

At 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 22nd, a tactical sergeant in the Chicago Police Department’s Ogden District was waved down near the West Side production studio where Fox television’s Empire is based.

“Hold me down,” the sergeant told dispatchers. “They got some kind of threat through the mail.”

And so began the long, twisted, and still unravelling tale of Jussie Smollett, star of the Fox program, and recipient of the threat letter who a week later would claim that two masked men beat him, put a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and called him racist and anti-gay slurs near his Streeterville apartment building at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29th.

CWBChicago on Monday reported on the month-old, multi-agency federal investigation that now has Smollett in its cross-hairs as possibly being the person who mailed the threat letter that started it all.

New details have now been learned about those very early moments in the ongoing saga as the first police, fire, and federal law enforcement officers handled the threat letter.
CWBChicago is waiting for the Chicago Police Department to fulfill a Freedom of Information request for a full copy of the threat letter incident report. But, on Tuesday, Fox Chicago reporter Rafer Weigel posted the report’s narrative section on Twitter.

Back-up officers’ body cameras were rolling as they arrived and met with the tactical sergeant at Empire’s executive offices. They met with Smollett and the show’s executive producer, Dennis Hammer.

The threat letter (bottom) and envelope (top). | TMZ

Escorted to Hammer’s office, the officers saw the now-infamous envelope sitting on the corner of a wooden desk. It had been mailed four days earlier in the southwest suburbs.

Hammer told police that he wore gloves to open the envelope and peek inside. And Smollett said he, too, wore gloves to remove the letter from its envelope. He discovered “an unknown white powdery substance on the front of the letter,” officers said.

With that, the fire department was called, a HAZMAT hot zone was established, and CFD specialists began processing the letter. Before long, tests were complete: The white powder was determined to be acetaminophen, the generic name for Tylenol.

Forensic field testing found an “unknown protein substance” on the letter, which was placed into an evidence bag. Hammer’s and Smollett’s gloves were placed in a second bag.

Less than 90 minutes after the tactical sergeant was flagged down, federal law enforcement took over the case. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service had been notified, and an agent from the FBI’s Chicago Field Office had paid a visit to the Empire offices.

That agent, who has been with the bureau for 17 years, has worked international terrorism cases and is currently the FBI’s weapons of mass destruction coordinator and a chemical agent instructor for the FBI SWAT team.

Needless to say, whoever mailed that letter to Smollett should be very concerned to know that an investigator with that level of experience was merely the first person assigned to the case.


NBC News reported on Tuesday that Jussie Smollett pleaded “no contest” in 2007 to giving false information to police after he was pulled over for DUI in California. According to the report, Smollett identified himself as his younger brother, Jake, and signed Jake’s name on a processing document. Smollett eventually completed an alcohol education program and successfully fulfilled the terms of his sentence, NBC said.

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See all of CWBChicago’s previous Jussie Smollet case reporting HERE.

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About CWBChicago 4275 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com