LOS ANGELES — It should have been a night of celebration for Jackie Lacey.
Not only was it the Los Angeles County district attorney’s birthday, but she was also kicking off her 2020 re-election campaign for her third term as district attorney. Friends and supporters were gathered at the Redbird restaurant downtown for the party when some uninvited guests starting milling around outside.
Soon the chants could be heard. “Jackie Lacey must go.” “Say his name: Gemmel Moore.”
For well over a year these protesters have gathered outside Lacey’s Hall of Justice office every Tuesday protesting Lacey’s refusal to charge police officers for taking the lives of unarmed black people.
According to Black Lives Matter activist Melina Abdullah and White People 4 Black Lives spokesperson Dahlia Ferlito, protesters have gathered for the past 73 weeks, calling attention to the stories of those killed by police in Los Angeles County and demanding that Lacey step down for her refusal to prosecute the police, whom activists say, “commit murder.”
Abdullah and Ferlito cite public records that confirm 460 Los Angeles County residents have died as a result of encounters with the police since Lacey took office in 2013.
On a recent Tuesday, that group was joined by family members, friends and supporters of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, two black men who were found dead within an 18-month period in the West Hollywood apartment of Ed Buck, a major contributor to local Democratic officials.
Led by members of the criminal justice organization Color of Change, they held a press conference attacking Lacey’s office for what the group said was the D.A.’s derelict record on prosecuting crimes committed against blacks and members of the LGBT community.
With the group were stacks of boxes that contained what organizers said were petitions with 30,000 signatures calling for the prosecution of Buck.
“Injustice is what D.A. Lacey and her cronies are in the business of brokering when they routinely and systematically refuse to prosecute the white killers of black women and men,” attorney and social activist Hussain Turk said. “Jackie Lacey refuses to criminally prosecute or even investigate Ed Buck while he continues to, in broad daylight, prey on black man after black man.”
Turk is one of the attorneys representing LaTisha Nixon, Moore’s mother. Moore was found dead in July 2017 from an injected methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s apartment. Other black gay escorts have alleged that Buck paid to inject them with meth and watch the effect the drug had on their bodies.
Following a year-long sheriff department’s investigation, the district attorney’s office ruled last July that the evidence was insufficient to bring charges against Buck.
Then, on the morning of Jan. 7, Dean was found dead in Buck’s apartment. Dean’s cause of death has not been released.
On Feb. 26, on the steps of the Hall of Justice, social and political activist Jasmyne Cannick, Turk, Nixon, Nixon’s lead attorney Nana Gyamfi and Color of Change representative Janaya Khan and other protesters stood behind the boxes of petitions.
“Ed Buck has a dangerous and deadly fetish, one that kills,” Kahn said. “Ed Buck must be held accountable. We have got to decide right now — in L.A. County and in this country — that having money, privilege and power doesn’t mean you get to do whatever the hell you want.”
Color of Change solicited the 30,000 signatures from all over the country, but most came from Los Angeles County residents. The petition calls for Jackie Lacey to prosecute Ed Buck for the deaths of Moore and Dean.
”We are calling on you to prosecute Ed Buck for the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean — two black gay men who died in his West Hollywood apartment after allegedly overdosing on drugs,” the petition reads. “Ed Buck has created a system of abusing the vulnerability and poverty of black men, many of whom have been described as being HIV positive and who were not addicted to drugs until coming into contact with him.
“We call on you to investigate and prosecute Ed Buck who so clearly poses a threat to the safety of black gay men in Los Angeles County and beyond.”
During the press conference, a tearful Nixon spoke about her son and said that the D.A.’s office was culpable in Dean’s death.
“Timothy Dean’s death could have been prevented if D.A. Jackie Lacey would have listened to us,” she said.
After Moore’s death, Nixon, Cannick and Gyamfi were approached by other black gay escorts who told them of having similar experiences with Buck and saying they were willing to talk to authorities.
These people “didn’t even know each other,” Nixon said. “They had pictures and they came with receipts.”
Nixon’s attorney Gyamfi said she has never been contacted by sheriff’s investigators or the D.A.’s office to interview the men.
“The district attorney’s office lies when it says it doesn’t have enough evidence to prosecute,” Gyamfi said. “She has been derelict in her duties in respect to cop killings and derelict in her duties with respect to Ed Buck killing people.”
Following the press conference, Nixon and the protesters marched to the Hall of Justice’s entrance to personally present the boxes of petitions to the district attorney. The group was met at the door by several security officers who informed the protesters that the district attorney was not available and denied them entry into the building.
After a lengthy debate, the officers requested Nixon and her attorneys place the boxes on a cart for delivery to the D.A.’s office.
“We believe that Gemmel’s life matters and so does Timothy Dean,” Khan said. “What we’re concerned about is why D.A. Lacey doesn’t believe the same. We’ve got to ask ourselves what is one life worth?”
After being turned away at the Hall of Justice, Nixon filed an 11-count wrongful death lawsuit.
The suit not only named Ed Buck as a defendant. It also named Lacey and Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum as defendants.
By Cynthia Gibson