Prominent Democratic donor and LGBTQ political activist Ed Buck was arrested Tuesday and charged with operating a drug house, with prosecutors calling him a violent sexual predator who preys on men struggling with addiction and homelessness.
Buck was charged with one count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Buck is accused of injecting a 37-year-old man, who overdosed but survived, with methamphetamine on Sept. 11.
That latest incident comes after two men were found dead in his Laurel Avenue apartment in West Hollywood. In both cases, African American men — Gemmel Moore, 26, and Timothy Dean, 55 — had overdosed on methamphetamine inside. After the first death in 2017, authorities said there was insufficient evidence to file charges.
“With this new evidence, I authorized the filing of criminal charges against Ed Buck,” Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said in a statement, adding that she is deeply concerned for those whose life circumstances make them vulnerable to predators.
Prosecutors said Buck lures his victims into his home, baiting them with drugs, money and shelter.
“From his home, in a position of power, Buck manipulates his victims into participating in his sexual fetishes,” prosecutors wrote in court papers. “These fetishes include supplying and personally administering dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims.... Not deterred by the senseless deaths of Moore and Dean, the defendant nearly killed a third victim last week.”
The latest victim, identified in court papers as Joe Doe, went to Buck’s apartment on Sept. 4, where Buck “personally and deliberately” administered a large dose of methamphetamine, prosecutors said. Concerned he was suffering an overdose, the man left the apartment to get medical help. He returned to Buck’s apartment on Sept. 11, when Buck again injected him with “two dangerously large” doses of methamphetamine, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Buck thwarted the man’s attempts to get help. The man eventually fled the apartment and called 911 from a gas station. He was taken to a hospital for treatment. Sheriff’s investigators found hundreds of photographs in Buck’s home of men in compromising positions.
“The full scope of his consistent malicious behavior is unknown,” prosecutors said. “It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable young men dies of an overdose.”
Buck is due in court Wednesday for his arraignment. Prosecutors are asking that his bail be set at $4 million. If convicted as charged, he faces up to five years and eight months in state prison.
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, could not be immediately reached for comment.
In 2007, Buck unsuccessfully ran for West Hollywood City Council as part of the Save West Hollywood campaign slate, a group of candidates who pledged to stop mega-development and “take down the ‘For Sale’ sign at City Hall.”
Steve Martin, a former councilman who ran on the slate and has known Buck for more than a decade, said he ran into Buck — who has rarely been seen in public since Moore’s death — in a grocery store about three months ago.
“He just seemed really anxious to talk,” Martin said. “He acknowledged that there were legal issues pending, so he couldn’t say much. But he looked really healthy.… He denied any drug use.”
Martin said Buck seemed to insinuate that his legal troubles would be over eventually. Buck has “burned so many bridges in the community” and it’s likely that few people are talking to him, Martin said.
“He was leading me to believe he was going to be vindicated,” Martin said.
In January, after Dean was found dead, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it would take another look at the first case. The deaths sparked protests from activists who complained authorities are not doing enough.
Los Angeles County coroner’s officials had concluded that Moore died from an accidental methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s apartment, which was littered with drug paraphernalia, including 24 hypodermic needles and five glass pipes, as well as sex toys. Paramedics found Moore naked on a mattress in the living room, the coroner’s report said.
They ruled Moore’s death an accident, and an initial review by sheriff’s deputies found nothing suspicious. But in August 2017, homicide detectives launched a new investigation after Moore’s mother and friends questioned whether the drugs that killed him were self-administered.
A notebook found in Moore’s possession indicated he used drugs with someone whose name is redacted in the coroner’s report. The Times has reviewed pages of that journal, in which Moore purportedly wrote about using crystal methamphetamine.
“Ed Buck is the one to thank,” Moore appears to have written. “He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”
Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon of Texas, has questioned whether Buck’s ties to elected officials and differences in race and class influenced the investigation. Buck, who is 65 and white, is a longtime political donor, onetime West Hollywood City Council candidate and a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles. Moore had been homeless and had worked as an escort.
In February, Nixon filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Buck, alleging he was a drug dealer who injected her son with a fatal dose of crystal methamphetamine.
“If the dead body of a blond-haired, blue-eyed white man was found in the home of an older black man, he’d be lucky to even make it to the police station alive,” Hussain Turk, an attorney for Nixon, said in a statement at the time of the lawsuit’s filing.
About 9 p.m. Tuesday, about a dozen onlookers gathered across the street from Buck’s apartment building, as police redirected cars on the blocked street. It was a quiet scene, with no protest chants or signs.
“Today is like a celebration for us,” said Jasmyne Cannick as she spoke to those gathered.
Cannick, a political consultant and spokeswoman for Moore’s mother, said she was giving a speech in Leimert Park on Tuesday evening when she started getting calls from Buck’s neighbors saying he was being arrested.
She pulled up to Buck’s West Hollywood apartment building just as a police car was driving away.
Cannick has said she believed Buck got special treatment because of his political activism and fundraising for Democratic candidates, a charge officials have denied, and because he was white and Moore and Dean were black.
“I feel vindicated for all the people who said it was never going to happen,” she said. “I feel really good for all the young men he took advantage of because they didn’t feel like anyone took them seriously, like their lives weren’t important enough for anyone to really care about.”
Cannick said she called Moore’s mother and Dean’s sister to tell them about the arrest, and “we were all crying.”
“We’re just completely ecstatic,” she said. “Black gay men’s lives matter. The whole black LGBT community is going to be celebrating this evening because our lives matter, and people need to know that. Even if we’re sex workers, even if we’re on drugs, even if we’re homeless, we’re still part of the black community, still part of the LGBT community.”
Yellow police tape blocked the entrance to Buck’s apartment in the 1200 block of North Laurel Avenue. Buck’s neighbors from the building stood outside, watching the scene unfold.
“I heard loud noises of police, like it was someone fighting, and usually our neighbors don’t fight,” said Celina Salazar, who was there as he was arrested.
Her partner, Caroline Serra, was parking in the underground garage after shopping for groceries when she exited the front garage gate and was confronted by police who told her to avoid the building.
“Then I came out and saw Ed Buck in handcuffs,” Serra said.
Times staff writer Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.