What exactly happened inside the apartment of Democratic donor and West Hollywood political activist Ed Buck?
That has been a burning question since January, when Timothy Dean was found dead inside Buck’s home. Dean was the second African American man to die at Buck’s residence. Both deaths prompted protests and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigations.
Some activists have called on law enforcement officials to criminally charge Buck. But authorities said Monday that Dean died of an accidental drug overdose.
Buck has denied any wrongdoing in either case. Still, the deaths leave many questions unanswered, and detectives are still investigating.
Here is a rundown of what we know from the pages of The Times.
Who is Ed Buck?
Buck, 64, has long been a contentious figure in West Hollywood, where he was best known for his animal rights and LGBTQ activism and his donations to Democratic politicians and causes.
Buck became a nationally known figure in the late 1980s when he led the successful effort to impeach Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. During the recall effort, it was made public that Buck was arrested in 1983 for public sexual indecency for grabbing the crotch of another man in a bookstore. Buck pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and cracked to reporters: “What they didn’t say was that the man enjoyed it.”
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.”
What happened at Buck’s apartment?
In 2017, Gemmel Moore died of a methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s home, where, according to a Los Angeles County coroner’s report, investigators found “multiple sex toys, multiple syringes and clear plastic bags with suspected methamphetamine in a tool box roll-cabinet in the living room.”
Moore had been homeless and had worked as an escort. The Times reviewed pages of a journal that authorities said was found among Moore’s possessions. In it, Moore purportedly wrote in 2016 about using crystal methamphetamine.
“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.”
In 2017, The Times interviewed a young black man who asked that his name not be used because he worked as an escort. The man said he reported complaints about Buck, similar to those made in the journal, to the West Hollywood sheriff’s station three weeks before Moore died.
The man showed The Times communications with Buck and photographs of him and Buck inside an apartment. Nana Gyamfi, an attorney representing the man, and a sheriff’s detective confirmed the man provided the same information to investigators looking into Moore’s death.
The man said he went to Buck’s apartment on July 3, 2017, and Buck took photos of him and then asked whether he wanted something to drink. Buck, he said, gave him a glass of water that made him feel a tingling sensation.
“The next thing I know, I’m waking up from taking a deep breath,” the man said. “My arms are immediately hurting, and I’m tied down to the couch. Just my arm. My arm was hurting.”
He said he went to the sheriff’s station afterward but authorities thought he was high on drugs and told him to leave.
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, said he does not know whether Buck uses illicit drugs and said, “What he does of a consensual nature, I really am not privy to or care about.”
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office last summer declined to file charges in Moore’s death, citing insufficient admissible evidence. A charge evaluation sheet cited an inadmissible search and seizure but did not elaborate.
Buck was present at Moore’s death and that of Dean on Jan. 7, authorities said.
Amster had previously said that Dean died of an apparent overdose after ingesting a substance at a location other than Buck’s home.
This week, sheriff’s officials said Dean’s death was ruled as an accidental methamphetamine overdose.
Dean, a West Hollywood resident, worked as a fashion consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue, and previously at Bloomingdale’s in Century City. His friends previously told The Times that Dean didn’t drink excessively and wasn’t known to do drugs.
“We stand by our position that unfortunately Mr. Dean ingested drugs at a location other than Mr. Buck’s, and he came over intoxicated, and it’s a tragedy,” Amster said Monday.
What are authorities doing now?
Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said investigators will continue interviewing people who come forward with information.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said in a statement released by her office earlier this month that she has asked the sheriff’s department to continue to thoroughly investigate the deaths of Moore and Dean.
Lacey said some people have insinuated that a $100 donation she received from Buck during her 2012 election campaign, which she has since returned, has tainted her ability to be impartial in whether criminal charges are warranted against Buck.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Lacey said in the statement. “Every life, regardless of a person’s age, race, economic status and even whether they use illegal drugs, has value. If that life is lost because of the unlawful actions of another, rest assured that my office will do everything possible to bring the perpetrator to justice.”