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Ed Buck, West Hollywood political activist, investigated over second death at his home: What we know

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Family members and activists gather following the death of Gemmel Moore in 2017.
(Los Angeles Times)

The Laurel Avenue home of a prominent West Hollywood LGBTQ political activist has been the scene of two mysterious deaths in the last two years.

In both cases, African American men were found dead inside the home of Ed Buck. The first death in 2017 involved drugs, and authorities said there was insufficient evidence to file charges.

The second death at Buck’s home, this week, is now under investigation, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department saying it will take another look at the first case.

The deaths have sparked protests from activists who complain authorities are not doing enough.

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Buck’s attorney has denied his client did anything wrong. Seymour Amster said Buck, who is white, is cooperating with investigators.

“From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” Amster said of the latest death. “The person came over intoxicated.”

The cases have generated debate in West Hollywood’s gay community about power, race and drugs.

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Democratic donor Ed Buck, left, Hernan Molina and West Hollywood Councilman John Duran appear in West Hollywood in 2010.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

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What do we know about the first death?

Gemmel Moore’s body was found in Buck’s apartment in July 2017.

Paramedics found Moore, 26, 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” at about 6:45 p.m. and “was witnessed by his friend” becoming warm and unresponsive after using methamphetamine that had been injected at 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.”

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Gemmel Moore, who was found dead in Ed Buck's home, is seen with his mother.
(Los Angeles Times)

How did that case turn out?

Prosecutors ultimately declined to file charges in the Moore case, citing insufficient evidence.

In a document dated from 2018, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Buck gave Moore drugs.

The document also cited inadmissible search and seizure, but it did not provide details.

What about the second death?

Details are being gathered regarding this case.

Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood station responded to the Laurel Avenue apartment complex at 1:05 a.m. Monday in response to a report of a person not breathing, the department said in a statement. At some point, the 911 caller performed CPR, the department said.

Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.

Authorities said they would thoroughly investigate the death and also planned to reexamine the Moore case.

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Following Gemmel Moore's death, mourners gathered to protest his death.
(Los Angeles Times)

Who is Ed Buck?

Buck became a nationally known figure in the late 1980s when he led the effort to impeach Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. News reports at the time described him as a conservative Republican.

The New York Times in 1987 described Buck as “a 33-year-old millionaire entrepreneur who retired from the insurance service business a year ago to found the Mecham Recall Committee.”

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.

Nixon, Moore’s mother, had questioned whether Buck’s ties to elected officials and differences in race and class influenced the investigation into her son’s death.

Authorities have denied there was any influence.

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson


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