By Cynthia Gibson
WEST HOLLYWOOD — Friends, family and supporters of Gemmel Moore are weighing their options after learning that the Los Angeles County District Attorney Office’s will not file charges in connection with Moore’s death.
They gathered July 27 in front of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to mark the one-year anniversary of Moore’s death of a methamphetamine overdose in the apartment of Ed Buck, a prominent fundraiser for Democratic politicians.
Moore was a 26-year-old black gay male escort. Buck, 63, is well known within LGBT political circles and once ran for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office officially classified Moore’s death as an accidental overdose with no further investigation.
Moore’s family and supporters argued that the lethal dose was administered by Buck, not Moore, and that race and class played a factor as to why there was no investigation into the cause of death.
Moore was black and reportedly homeless at the time of his death. Buck is a white businessman.
Following Moore’s death, other young, black gay escorts came forward to tell of their drug-use experiences with Buck. In August 2017, “out of an abundance of caution,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department opened an investigation. Nearly a year later on July 10, the sheriff’s three-person investigative team presented their findings to the District Attorney’s Office.
According to a charge-evaluation worksheet prepared by the D.A.’s office that was made public July 26, the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Buck] is responsible for the death of Gemmel Moore. Likewise, the admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that suspect Buck furnished drugs to Gemmel Moore or that suspect Buck possessed drugs.”
Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, was disappointed that charges would not be filed against Buck, but not surprised. The July 27 vigil was organized by social activist and political commentator Jasmyne Cannick, who has been working with Moore’s family to bring attention to the case and put pressure on authorities to press charges against Buck.
Cannick also said she was not surprised by the D.A’s decision, but said she was “deeply saddened.”
Cannick said the county coroner’s report stated Buck’s living room was littered with 24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, clear plastic bags with white powdery residue and a clear plastic bag with a “piece of crystal-like substance.”
“If the roles had been reversed and Gemmel Moore was a wealthy black man with that much drug paraphernalia lying around, and Ed Buck was a young, white male found dead in his apartment from an overdose, he would have at least been charged with something,” Cannick said.
“I will never stop trying to get justice for my son,” Nixon said. “Ed Buck is a bully and a predator and he needs to be stopped. I don’t want there to be any more Gemmel Moores.”
She discounted the sheriff office’s investigation as “lip service,” noting that most of the evidence that the investigators presented to the district attorney was provided to investigators by her and Moore’s supporters and friends. Nixon scoffed at a poster created by sheriff’s investigators seeking to interview additional men that had experiences with Buck. The poster had Moore’s photo on it, not Buck’s.
“It looked like one of those ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ posters you see in the post office, and it had my son’s picture on it. How does that help?” Nixon asked.
In Moore’s case, the district attorney’s office reviewed four potential charges: murder, voluntary manslaughter and furnishing and possessing drugs. All four charges were rejected. Cannick noted that there were several felony crimes for which Buck could have been charged, but investigators never followed up.
Prior to and during the investigation, Cannick provided testimonies from young, black gay men who alleged to have had experienced Buck’s predatory behavior as well as communications via text messages between Buck and these men.
During the vigil, she presented a video purported to have been taken on May 5 by a young black man who said Ed Buck lured him to his apartment with the promise of drugs and money. The incident occurred while Buck was still under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department.
The vigil ended with the reading of the final entry in Moore’s journal, dated Dec. 3, 2016.
“If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.”
Seven months later, Moore was found dead from an overdose in Buck’s apartment.
Supporters vow to continue to pressure the Sheriff’s Department to further investigate Moore’s death and pressure the D.A.’s office to bring charges against Buck. A civil lawsuit is also under consideration.
“If any more young, black gay men die because of Ed Buck, the blood will be on their hands,” Nixon said.