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Prosecutors reviewing fatal overdose of man who died at home of prominent Democratic donor

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Friends and family gather for a candlelight vigil outside the West Hollywood sheriff’s station in August 2017. Gemmel Moore was found dead of a drug overdose in the home of Democratic donor Ed Buck.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors are reviewing whether to file charges in the fatal overdose of a 26-year-old man who died last summer in the West Hollywood home of prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck.

Gemmel Moore’s July 2017 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 after Moore’s mother and friends questioned whether the drugs that killed him were self-administered.

Sheriff’s investigators presented their case to prosecutors on July 10, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

“It remains under review,” Risling said in an email, without elaborating on whether investigators had recommended criminal charges and, if so, against whom.

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Seymour Amster, an attorney representing Buck, reiterated Wednesday that the coroner’s office determined that Moore’s death was an accident.

“This was a tragedy, but it’s no excuse to accuse an innocent man of acts he did not do,” Amster said. If authorities had a case, he added, “I think an arrest warrant probably would’ve gone out a long time ago.”

According to the coroner’s autopsy report, Moore died from an accidental methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment, which was littered with drug paraphernalia. The drug was injected into his body.

Last year, after reviewing the autopsy report, Amster said he maintained his position that Buck “did not witness it being injected.”

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Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon of Texas, had questioned whether Buck’s ties to elected officials and differences in race and class influenced the investigation.

Buck, who is 63 and white, is a longtime political donor, one-time West Hollywood City Council candidate and a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles. Moore, who was black, had been homeless and had worked as an escort.

Moore had flown from Houston to Los Angeles the day he died, according to coroner’s investigators. His mother has told The Times that Buck bought his airplane ticket.

A notebook found in Moore’s possession indicated he used drugs with someone whose name is redacted in the coroner’s report. The Times has reviewed pages of that journal, in which Moore purportedly wrote about using crystal methamphetamine.

“Ed Buck is the one to thank,” Moore appears to have written. “He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”

alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @AleneTchek


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