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Man credited with aiding arrest of Democratic donor Ed Buck says he’s homeless, trying to rebuild life

“Joe Doe” with activist Jasmyne Cannick.
“Joe Doe” with activist Jasmyne Cannick.
(Jasmyne Cannick)

He said he met Ed Buck through the dating website Adam4Adam.

Months later, he found himself drugged inside Buck’s apartment. Authorities said the man was able to escape, and that was key in arresting the Democratic donor and West Hollywood activist last week.

But now, as national attention has focused on the Buck case, the man who Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said “gave us the break we needed” is without a home and facing an uncertain future.

“I am homeless,” said the man in an interview with The Times. He declined to be identified, and authorities have referred to him in court records as Joe Doe.

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The man, a 37-year-old Wisconsin native, said he recently got a job but was struggling to put his life back together after the ordeal.

He declined to detail his dealings with Buck because it’s the subject of a criminal investigation.

But authorities said he fled Buck’s home fearing he was suffering a methamphetamine overdose.

Buck tried to prevent him from getting medical attention, authorities said. He was able to get to a gas station and call 911 after the Sept. 11 incident, which investigators have said was key to bringing charges against Buck. Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials have said that 911 call was crucial in building the case.

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Buck has been the subject of protests and demands for justice since 2017, when a young man was found dead in his home of a drug overdose. Early this year, a second man was found dead inside Buck’s West Hollywood apartment.

Community activists and family and friends of the victims have long questioned whether Buck’s political connections played a role in the lack of law enforcement action after the first death — an accusation authorities deny.

A 22-page federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday painted a depraved picture of how Buck earned the grim sobriquet of “Dr. Kevorkian” among the homeless men in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, less than a mile from Buck’s home.

Ten men told investigators that Buck had paid them to use drugs and dress in skimpy underwear for his own sexual pleasure. Several of the men claimed they lost consciousness after Buck served them a drink, and some said they woke up to the sight of him injecting drugs into their arms against their will, according to the complaint.

Buck was charged Thursday with one count of distributing methamphetamine leading to a death, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. Buck’s attorney has not returned calls seeking comment but in the past has denied his client did anything wrong.

In an interview, the man said he was homeless when he met Buck but that he didn’t intend to stay with the donor.

“I didn’t have a place to stay at some point, but I never asked to stay with him,” he said.

After he escaped from the apartment, he said he talked to detectives. The man said he had no family in California so after the ordeal with Buck, “I had nowhere to go,” he said.

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He eventually turned to activist Jasmyne Cannick, who has been fighting for authorities to charge Buck for two years. He said she paid for a hotel room out of a GoFundMe account established in the case.

“People celebrate the arrest of Ed Buck. But they left this man homeless. He is now working but needed somewhere to live,” said Cannick, who has been highly critical of how law enforcement handled the Buck case. “They were all taking a bow praising him while ignoring his well-being.”

In a statement Tuesday, the district attorney’s office said the Sheriff’s Department had sought assistance from a community-based organization to help Joe Doe find housing and other services. “Last Wednesday, our office assigned a victim services representative to assist Mr. Doe with any needs beyond what the community-based organization could provide. While housing was secured for Mr. Doe, he believed the location was not geographically suitable for his needs.”

The statement added that a victim services representative from the D.A.'s office has contacted Joe Doe to assist him further.

Buck’s behavior first came under scrutiny in July 2017 after Gemmel Moore, who had been homeless and sometimes worked as an escort, died of a methamphetamine overdose. Investigators initially ruled his death accidental, but activists and Moore’s family quickly challenged that determination. In a journal found among Moore’s possessions, the 26-year-old Texas man blamed Buck for his drug addiction.

“I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that,” the journal said. “Ed Buck is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of chrystal meth.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department revisited the case, and in 2018, investigators asked prosecutors to consider four charges in Moore’s death: murder, voluntary manslaughter, and furnishing and possessing drugs. Lacey declined to file a case, citing insufficient evidence.

When a second man — Timothy Dean, 55 — died of an overdose in Buck’s apartment in January, the Sheriff’s Department said it would take another look at the first case.

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Buck first gained political notoriety as a self-described conservative Republican while leading a gubernatorial recall effort in Arizona in the 1980s. But he became prominent in California as an “in-your-face” Democratic activist and booster of animal rights and LGBTQ causes.

In the last decade, he has donated money to all but one member of the current West Hollywood City Council, as well as candidates for the Los Angeles school board and California Senate.

Joe Doe said in an interview he is hoping to pull his life back together.

He is working on an information technology help desk, assisting people with their computers.

“It was good to talk to people,” he said.


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