In 2017, a young African American man, Gemmel Moore, 26, was found dead inside the home of Democratic donor Ed Buck under suspicious circumstances.
There were demands for an investigation and protests. But in the end, authorities said there was not enough evidence to charge Buck with a crime.
Then in January 2019, a second man, Timothy Dean, 55, was found dead in Buck’s West Hollywood apartment. There were more protests and demands for action, but Buck remained free and denied any wrongdoing in either case through his attorney.
Now, prosecutors say a third man tried to escape from Buck’s home in September after being drugged. They claim Buck prevented the man from getting help.
This time, authorities took action.
Buck was arrested and charged this week with operating a drug house, with prosecutors calling him a violent sexual predator who preys on men struggling with addiction and homelessness.
The wealthy gay-rights activist is accused of injecting a 37-year-old man, who overdosed but survived, with methamphetamine on Sept. 11. Buck’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment, but activists who have long demanded action say they are relieved by the arrest.
The case sparked soul-searching in West Hollywood’s gay community about wealth, power and race.
“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,” activist Jasmyne Cannick said.
Here is how the case unfolded:
Moore’s body was found in Buck’s apartment in July 2017.
Paramedics found the 26-year-old naked on a mattress in the living room with a “male pornography movie playing on the television,” a coroner’s report said.
The report said Moore was visiting “his friend’s residence” about 6:45 p.m. and “was witnessed by his friend” becoming warm and unresponsive after using methamphetamine that had been injected about 5 p.m. The male friend’s name was redacted.
The friend alerted a neighbor who “has medical knowledge” and attempted CPR until a paramedic arrived. The report said Buck called 911.
Investigators found sex toys, syringes and “clear plastic bags with suspected methamphetamine in a tool box roll-cabinet in the living room,” according to the report.
Moore’s death was ruled an accident, and an initial review by sheriff’s deputies found nothing suspicious. But the following month, Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives launched a new investigation into Moore’s death after his mother, LaTisha Nixon of Texas, 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 was redacted in the coroner’s report. The Times reviewed pages of that journal, in which Moore purportedly wrote about using crystal methamphetamine.
“Ed Buck is the one to thank,” Moore purportedly wrote. “He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”
Prosecutors ultimately declined to file charges in the Moore case, citing insufficient evidence.
Dean died Jan 7. of methamphetamine and alcohol toxicity. The death was accidental, and the drugs appeared to have been injected, according to a coroner’s report.
On the morning of Dean’s death, Buck told a sheriff’s deputy that Dean “began to exhibit bizarre behavior” and used a piece of clothing to make a noose and tied it around his neck, the report states. Buck said that he removed the noose and that Dean began throwing clothes into the air.
Buck then went to take a shower, and when he returned, he found Dean unresponsive, he told the deputy.
“He relays that he attempted CPR for 15 minutes before contacting 911,” the report stated.
Paramedics pronounced Dean dead at the scene. Buck told the sheriff’s deputy that he did not see Dean taking drugs and that they did not have sex, according to the report.
Dean worked as a fashion consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue, and previously, at Bloomingdale’s in Century City, friends say. For years, he played in the Lambda Basketball League and traveled to Paris to compete in the Gay Games.
The latest man found in Buck’s home, identified in court papers as Joe Doe, went to the apartment on Sept. 4, where Buck “personally and deliberately” administered a large dose of methamphetamine, prosecutors said. Concerned he was overdosing, the man left Buck’s apartment to get medical help.
He returned to Buck’s apartment a week later, on Sept. 11, when Buck again injected him with “two dangerously large” doses of methamphetamine, prosecutors said.
But this time, prosecutors say, Buck thwarted the man’s attempts to leave. 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 accused of luring his victims into his home and then 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.”
Buck became a nationally known figure in the late 1980s when he led an effort to impeach Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. News reports at the time described him as a conservative Republican.
Upon learning that Buck was gay, Mecham’s aides distributed bumper stickers reading “Queer Ed Buck’s Recall.” The Arizona governor’s efforts to dismiss the recall supporters — whom he dubbed “a band of homosexuals and a few dissident Democrats” — with comments about sexual orientation were pilloried in the “Doonesbury” comic strip.
More recently, Buck has donated to various Democratic causes.
Through June 2017, Buck gave $23,600 to various California races and causes, according to campaign finance records.
He also donated to candidates running for election to the West Hollywood City Council, Los Angeles Unified School District board and California Senate, and he served on the Stonewall Democratic Club Steering Committee.