The attorney for Ed Buck, the longtime Democratic donor whose West Hollywood home has been the scene of two black men’s deaths since 2017, said Friday that critics have unfairly used race to blame his client for the deaths.
“Some people still want us to have a race war,” attorney Seymour Amster said of Buck’s critics. “Some people want to look at things as black, white or brown. It’s not. If we want to move forward and get away from identifying individuals by race, we must take race out of the conversation.”
Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives are investigating the death of Timothy Dean, 55, of West Hollywood, who was found dead in Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment early Monday.
Buck, a 64-year-old white man, previously was investigated in the July 2017 death of Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old black man who died of a methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s home, which was littered with drug paraphernalia, according to a Los Angeles County coroner’s report.
Prosecutors this summer declined to file charges, and Buck has not been arrested in either case. The Sheriff’s Department said he was present for both deaths.
Protesters, most of whom were black, gathered outside Buck’s apartment this week demanding his prosecution. Some protesters turned on Buck’s neighbors — most of whom were white — accusing them of being complicit.
“If a black man was living there, you wouldn’t be OK with it,” one of the protesters shouted.
Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant who has advocated for Moore’s family and who organized this week’s protests, has accused Buck of preying on vulnerable black men, such as sex workers and homeless men, for sexual gratification. Cannick, who is running to be a delegate to the California Democratic Party, said she has spoken to multiple men who share similar stories about their interactions with Buck.
Buck is “a man who they say has a Tuskegee Experiment-like fetish which includes shooting drugs into young black men that he picks up off the street or via dating hookup websites,” Cannick said in a statement.
Dozens of people gathered outside Buck’s apartment Friday night for a candlelight vigil honoring Moore and Dean.
“It is a race issue. If you look at all of his ads online, it’s specifically black men. He doesn’t want anybody else but black men,” Cannick told the crowd, referring to Buck’s posts on the internet.
“If the Sheriff’s Department and district attorney don’t do their job, a third body’s going to be taken out of Ed Buck’s apartment,” she said.
West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath told the crowd she has spoken with Sheriff Alex Villanueva and has asked for extra patrols near Buck’s apartment.
Horvath said that when she heard the news of Dean’s death, “I was sickened. I was heartbroken. And I remain so.” She called the details of this case “eerily similar” to Moore’s death.
Horvath said Villanueva had assured her that there would be a “complete and independent and thorough investigation.”
Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, walked into the crowd as they chanted her son’s name.
“He is a predator,” Nixon said of Buck. “He is preying on black men.”
She added: “When the cameras are gone, when everyone is gone, I have to live without my son.”
Nixon took offense to Buck’s attorney, Amster, describing Buck as a friend to her son and other young black men.
“He was such a friend that I have yet to hear from him, and my son’s been dead for 18 months,” she said. “He didn’t care.”
On Friday, Amster told The Times that Buck is the victim of a “character attack” and that the cases have been sensationalized.
“Some people who all of a sudden have media attention are trying to divide the races,” Amster said. “I see it not just here, but I see it all over the place. It is time for us to stop talking about race. Talking about socioeconomic barriers? I’m all in agreement.”
He added: “I don’t think we have defined races anymore. Thank goodness we have interracial marriages. That’s great. Let’s stop the conversation on race.”
Amster said Buck has long been an advocate for people struggling with addiction or homelessness and has been the kind of friend they turn to for help.
“Ed has helped hundreds of individuals, but they are reluctant to come forward because they are thankful but don’t want their personal lives exposed,” Amster said.
Amster said his client brings people into his home, and they bring their problems with them. He denied claims that Buck is preying on vulnerable people and said he did not cause Moore’s and Dean’s deaths.
“These are things they are bringing into this residence that are causing their death,” Amster said. “He has a heart of gold.”
On Thursday, a coalition of 50 civil rights organizations — including Equality California, the ACLU, the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Black Justice Coalition — called for a thorough investigation and for politicians to return all money Buck donated to their campaigns.
In a statement, the coalition said, “Nearly a dozen young men have confirmed Moore’s account and shared personal stories about Buck’s alleged, nefarious practice of injecting Black men with various lethal substances.
“The tragic deaths of these two black men are of great concern during a time when white supremacy, anti-blackness and racial violence are pervasive,” the statement said. “Although some may blame the victims for their own deaths or shame sex workers, we affirm that the intersection of racism, poverty, homophobia and biphobia restrict opportunities for black LGBTQ people in America, sometimes forcing them to turn to commercial sex work for survival, in ways that make them vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.”