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Second man found dead in Ed Buck’s home renews scrutiny over donations

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A man was found dead at major California Democratic donor Ed Buck’s West Hollywood apartment Monday in a what his lawyer is calling an accidental drug overdose. That story alone could provoke suspicion, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened, setting off alarm bells for enraged community members following the July 2017 death of a male escort on Buck’s property.

Police say a 55-year-old black man was found in the apartment not breathing. He could not be resuscitated and was later pronounced dead. Details of his identity have not yet been released, and the Homicide Bureau says they are investigating the cause of death.

Buck has reportedly not been charged in connection to the incident and remains a free man.

For certain members of the black and LGBTQ communities in Los Angeles, the second death highlights what some are calling a disturbing pattern of injustice enabled by white privilege and nepotism. A review of Buck’s political donation history reveals that he has deep ties to the mayor of West Hollywood, donating over $10,000 to his campaigns over the years, and has donated to nearly every member of city council and the Los Angeles district attorney who oversaw his case.

Some question whether those donations could have influenced the manner in which the cases surrounding Buck were handled.

A second death under similar circumstances

Gemmel Moore was the first man found dead in Ed Buck’s Los Angeles apartment.
Facebook/Gemmel Moore

On July 27, 2017, the body of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found on a mattress on the living room floor of the same apartment the unidentified man was found on Monday. The coroner ruled Moore’s death an accidental meth overdose. One year later, prosecutors announced they would charge Buck in Moore’s death. Now investigators say they are reviewing the case in light of the latest death.

Moore was a sex worker who was addicted to methamphetamine, according to friends. Buck was a wealthy well-connected Democratic donor and activist who had a penchant for soliciting black male escorts in West Hollywood for meth and GHB-fueled sex, according to a report from The Root and screenshots and interviews from the WeHo Times.

After leading a successful effort to impeach Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham in 1987, Buck moved to West Hollywood in 1991 “retire,” according to WeHoVille. There he unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2007. He gained notoriety after interrupting a town-hall-style meeting feature Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman. He then focused his political efforts on passing a local fur ban for retailers, for which he aligned himself with local politicians, including John D’Amico who now sits on West Hollywood City Council. From then on, he would be connected to major Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton.

In a journal supposedly kept by Moore and found by authorities, he wrote, “I’ve became addicted to drugs and the worst one at that. Ed Buck is the one to thank he gave me my first injection of crystal meth it was very painful but after all the troubles I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy.”

He continued, “If it didn’t hurt so bad I’d kill myself, but for now I’ll just let Ed Buck do it.”

LaTisha Nixon, Moore’s mother, told WeHo Times that before his death, her son said that Buck injected drugs into him against his will. Escort Damar Love said he had a similar experience, telling WeHo Times, “I was at Ed’s house and I fell asleep. I woke up because I felt a prick on my arm. My arm was tied down and it was red.” Other escorts described Moore as fetishizing controlling how much drugs were administered into their systems, encouraging them to use more for more money.

Nana Gyamfi, a civil-rights attorney representing Nixon, told INSIDER that whether or not Moore consented to the drug use, Buck’s tactics and methods were predatory and made him responsible. “Obviously, if it’s not consensual. That’s an issue, but even if it is consensual, the question for us is who is in control of the drugs and the administration of the drugs. The answer is Ed Buck.”

Twenty-four syringes and baggies with white and crystalline residue were reportedly found in Buck’s apartment, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After Moore’s death, Nixon called for a deeper investigation, suggesting that either nepotism or racism could be protecting Buck.

In July 2018, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office announced that it would not seek to prosecute Buck. After the announcement, Nixon warned in a press conference that other young black men could die as a result.

Now, Gyamfi says the community is suffering because no one listened. “We had been very clear with the detectives that based upon the information that we had that Ed Burke has a problem in the sense of him being predatory, being reckless, and being dangerous — that he would not stop unless he was stopped. And that his actions clearly lead to people’s death,” said Gyamfi. “Someone else was going to die.”

Now, activists are calling for Buck’s arrest and a reinvestigation of Moore’s death

At a protest Monday evening outside of Buck’s apartment, more than 100 people rallied for his arrest and a renewed investigation into Moore’s death.

Jasmyne Cannick, who has been leading the campaign for justice for Moore, demanded action from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, saying, “We will leave and there will be another man going into his house tonight, another man coming in tomorrow. Now it’s time for the Sheriff’s Department and [District Attorney] Jackie Lacey to s–t or get off the pot,” Cannick said.

According to a resident of Buck’s building who spoke to WeHoVille, occupants have repeatedly called the police because of his suspected drug use, but no action has been taken.

Gyamfi criticized the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for what she saw as persistent failure to listen to Buck’s alleged victims. “Two or three of the witnesses described going to the Sheriff’s Department right there in West Hollywood, including Gemmel in his own journal, and complaining and letting them know that something had happened, that Ed Buck had done something to them,” she said. “They were literally shooed away, literally, ‘hey drug heads get out of here.'”

Activists have also suggested that the inaction in Buck’s case could be due to his political connections. “Lindsey Horvath is the only City Council member who spoke up and that it made any attempts to try to investigate it and push this case,” said Gyamfi. “All the other Council members have all received money from Ed Buck, and the mayor completely tried to throw this under the rug.”

According to public records reviewed by INSIDER, the assertion that Buck donated to every other West Hollywood City Council member is true. In 2014, Buck donated over $11,000 to West Hollywood mayor John Duran. In 2014, Buck also donated $500 to Mayor Pro Tempore John D’Amico. In 2017, he gave $2,000 to Councilmember John Heilman. And in 2015, he gave $500 to Councilmember Lauren Meister.

D’Amico and Meister reportedly attended the rally Monday night, with D’Amico drawing vocal criticism for not returning donations from Buck.

Buck also donated $100 to LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2012, who oversaw his case and decided not to prosecute the case of Moore’s death. Additionally, Buck has donated to numerous state politicians, such as Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown.

D’Amico, Meister, and Horvath have all requested a sheriff’s department investigation, according to WeHoVille.

Despite the blame Gyamfi attributed to politicians and members of the political establishment, she believes race is at the root of the problem that led vulnerable men like Gemmel Moore to Ed Buck. “Race is the basis, that’s the foundation,” she said. “That it becomes OK for him to live his life as normal no matter how many dead bodies come out of his apartment. This cannot happen outside of white privilege.”

“The reason that people are able to get caught up with a person like Ed Buck isn’t because they’re just so excited to hook up with him. It is because of the lack of services. It is because people are houseless, because of the lack of employment opportunities for young LGBTQ black folks,” Gyamfi said.

“Before the person got dragged out of Ed Buck’s house, how many failures on the part of the city occur in helping with mental health and helping with housing and helping with employment.”

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