Late last month, it was reported that Empire star Jussie Smollett was attacked while walking home to his Chicago apartment.
After what appeared to be a brutal, racially motivated hate crime, the reaction among fans was one of shock and disgust.
Today, many are experiencing those same feelings - but for a very different reason - following an equally shocking report.
Police suspect that Smollett staged the attack, and this isn't just a run of the mill conspiracy theory originating on 4Chan.
Real evidence is beginning to mount suggesting that the incident actually may have been some sort of bizarre PR stunt.
Many questions remain about why Smollett would go to such bizarre extremes and, if he did, just how he pulled it off.
This is a developing story, but here's a look at everything we know so far about this increasingly bizarre situation.
UPDATE: Smollett has now been arrested for falsifying a police report. We've updated this slideshow to include the latest on what has become a disturbing and confounding situation...
Smollett told police that on January 29, he was attacked on a Chicago street by two white men wearing "Make America Great Again" hats.
It was revealed this week that police believe Smollett “potentially staged the attack,” a source tells CBS 2 News in Chicago.
Police raided the home of two persons of interest in the case on Wednesday night.
Items of Interest
Investigators seized several items linked to the allegedly staged attack, including "bleach, shoes, electronics, receipts."
To the chagrin of fans, a police source confirmed Thursday night that “indicators point to Smollett orchestrating the event.”
The two men who allegedly helped Smollett stage the attack were apprehended at Chicago's O'Hare Airport Wednesday night.
Friends and Co-Conspirators
Both men are said to have worked on the set of Empire as extras, which is presumably where they met Smollett.
According to a report from CBS 2, police believe “non-cooperating 2 witnesses are co-conspirators in a potentially staged attack."
Smollett was scheduled for an interview for police on Thursday morning but did not report to the precinct at the scheduled time.
Smollett's apparent avoidance of police comes just hours after the actor offered a dramatic account of the attack on Good Morning America.
Shockingly, it's believed that Smollett went to such elaborate lengths because his character was being written off the show.
A spokesperson for 20th Century denies, however, that producers had any plans to write Smollett off the show.
It remains unclear why Smollett thought being assaulted would secure him more time on the show, but if the attack was indeed staged, he certainly went to great lengths to ensure that it made headlines.
Smollett claimed that he was approached by two white men while he was walking home to his Chicago apartment and speaking to his manager on the phone.
Smollett told police that the two men hurled racial and homophobic slurs at Smollett, who has been openly gay since 2015.
The actor told police that the men tied a noose around his neck and doused him in bleach.
He claimed that they screamed at him, "This is MAGA country!" in apparent reference to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Holes In the Story
Shortly after Smollett offered this account, however, suspicion that he was lying about the attack began to circulate on social media.
For starters, Smollett did not call police immediately after the attack, a fact that many regarded as suspicious.
Smollett says he did not alert authorities due to "pride."
Once the investigation began, the 36-year-old was reportedly reluctant to turn over his phone records -- records that would have proven that his manager, whom he had allegedly been speaking with at the time, was a remote witness.
When he eventually offered police what he claimed was evidence of the phone call, investigators rejected the digital document, claiming that it was a "redacted" PDF file.
Speaking with GMA's Robin Roberts, Smollett argued that he's under suspicion solely because his assailants were white.
"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more. A lot more," Smollett said.
The Current Climate
"And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now," he added.
More to Come
We'll have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.
Here is that Update:
Smollett has been arrested for a felony. He was taken into custody on February 21, 2019.
This is What a Chicago PD Spokesman Tweeted About the Arrest
Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.
The actor faces up to three years in prison.
What Evidence is There?
Two Nigerian brothers who worked as extras on Empire and who also trained Smollett have spoken at length to the police. They say Jussie paid them to orchestrate the alleged beating.
There's Surveillance Footage That Depicts These Brothers Buying Supplies for the Hoax
There Have Been Doubts All Along
According to TMZ, police found it off from the get-go that Smollett kept the rope around his neck for 42 minutes after the "attack." They were walsore suspicious when he took them to the scene and immediately pointed out a camera... which he said captured the incident. (Turns out, it was facing the wrong way and did NOT capture the incident.)
Is Smollett Still Maintaining His Innocence?
He has not spoken out since the arrest, but his lawyers have issued a statement that reads as follows: "Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked."
And It Concludes:
"Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
Did He Also Send These Threatening Letters to Himself?
Police have not yet said whether they suspect Smollett was behind the hate mail sent to him a week or so prior to the apparent hoax.
Why Would Smollett Have Made All This Up?
Fox insists he was not being written off Empire, shooting down this original alleged motive. All we can surmise at this point is that he took a terribly wrong approach in an attempt to shed light on the racism and homophobia that exists in this country.