WEST HOLLYWOOD — Dozens of protestors gathered outside an apartment building in the evening hours Jan. 7 demanding that a prominent Democratic Party donor be held accountable for the death of an unidentified black man who died in the apartment earlier in the morning.
It was the second time in 18 months a black man had been found dead inside the apartment of Ed Buck on Laurel Avenue.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to a 911 call at 1:05 a.m. Jan. 7 regarding a person not breathing. Paramedics arrived at Buck’s apartment where they found an unresponsive adult male. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The man’s identity has not been released and the cause of death is unknown. The cause of death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office.
One politician who has received campaign contributions from Buck in the past announced that he would be donating the money to gay causes.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said Jan. 9 he would be donating campaign contributions from Buck to five gay and civil rights organizations.
Lieu said he would donate $5,000 each to Lambda Legal and the NAACP, $3,000 each to GLAAD and The Trevor Project, and $2,500 to the Equality California Institute.
“I am deeply disturbed by the latest revelations of a second death by overdose at the home of Ed Buck,” Lieu said.
To the protestors outside the apartment complex, the latest death had too much in common with the death of Gemmel Moore, a 26-year old gay male escort who was found dead inside Buck’s apartment in July 2017.
According to the L.A. County coroner’s reports, Moore was found naked on the floor along with “24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue and a clear plastic bag with a piece of crystal-like substance.”
The coroner’s autopsy confirmed that Moore died of a fatal dose of methamphetamine that was injected into his body. Moore’s family alleges that Buck, 64, administered the fatal meth injection.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office refused to press charges against Buck for Moore’s death because, according to court documents, the police investigation could not determine “beyond a reasonable doubt that suspect Buck furnished drugs to Gemmel Moore or that suspect Buck possessed drugs.”
Buck is a well-known political donor, who has given tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates over the years.
Moore’s family, friends and community activists say race, class and political connections played a role in the investigation of his death. During the Jan. 7 protest, social activist Jasmyne Cannick listed District Attorney Jackie Lacey, newly elected California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former California Senate leader Kevin De Leon as beneficiaries of Buck’s campaign contributions.
“He spreads his money around to get access and influence into these powerful circles,” Cannick said. “There should be no reason anyone should want to take any money or want to have anything to do with Ed Buck. He’s a murderer.”
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster disputes that characterization.
According to Amster, the man who died Jan. 7 was a longtime friend of Buck’s. When the individual arrived at his apartment, “he had already been partying, apparently had already been taking substances,” Amster said adding that Buck was reluctant to let him in.
Amster claims people like Buck have a “huge heart — maybe bigger than what they should have” and that Buck tries to counsel these men to change their ways. “But this is what happens.”
Cannick and Moore’s mother, Latisha Nixon, see Buck as a predator who targets vulnerable gay black men to take drugs with, especially the highly addictive methamphetamine. Moore wrote in his journal that it was Buck who introduced him to meth.
“I honestly don’t know what to do,” Moore wrote before his death in 2017. “I’ve become 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.”
“All the young men we interviewed confirmed that Buck has to be the one to inject you with the meth. That he likes to have the control over you,” Cannick said. “That the more you take, the more money he is willing to pay you.”
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office released a statement saying that it has “been in communication with detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department” but declined to comment further “due to the pending investigation.”
Moore’s best friend, Cory McClain, was among the crowd gathered outside of Buck’s apartment Jan. 7. Following Moore’s death, Cannick worked hard with his family and friends, including McClean, to provide investigators with personal testimonies from other alleged victims of Buck. McClean said that hearing about a second death at Moore’s apartment was disheartening.
“It was all in vain. We were trying to stop another death and look what happened. Now it’s the same people saying the same thing,” McClean said. “I want that man gone. What is it going to take?”
Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. People who prefer to provide information anonymously, may call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
City News Service contributed to this story.