WEST HOLLYWOOD, California—For two years, LaTisha Nixon wasn’t talking. She spoke in private—to her lawyers, to her kids, to police, to investigators. But when reporters reached out for interviews, she declined. The mother of five didn’t want to talk about her son, Gemmel Moore, about how he was found dead from an overdose in the West Hollywood home of political donor, Ed Buck, about how Los Angeles prosecutors failed to press charges for two years and 52 days. Part of that was distance—Nixon lives in Texas—but mostly, she’s just a private person. Gemmel was too.
“If he could come back, he would say, ‘Ma, I don’t have any privacy anymore,’” Nixon said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the first time she’s spoken publicly since Moore’s death. “It’s like I’m under a microscope.”
Nixon was at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, just blocks from where her son had been found two years earlier. Moore was the first of three men to overdose—two fatally—in Buck’s apartment since 2017.
Last week, Buck was arrested on a federal criminal complaint that accused him of injecting low-income black men with lethal doses of methamphetamine as part of a sexual fetish. The wealthy 65-year-old, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians across California, faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of the charge of administering drugs resulting in a death. He’s also charged in a state complaint with running a drug den. His attorney has in the past denied he played any role in the overdoses.
At the press conference, Jasmyne Cannick, a journalist and activist who has investigated Buck, asked Nixon: “When you found out Ed Buck was arrested, how did you feel?”
“I felt—finally. Finally. Finally,” Nixon said. “We had been screaming for so long and no one listened. Finally someone listened. Finally.”
The press conference unfolded just hours after Nixon’s attorneys, Nana Gyamfi and Hussain Turk, filed a second amended complaint in their wrongful death civil suit against Buck, the County of Los Angeles, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and assistant DA Craig Hum. The new document added two claims against Lacey and Hum, accusing them of conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights and violation of civil rights.
According to Nixon and her advocates, they personally identified, interviewed, and vetted seven men who had stories of forced injection by Buck, along with three witnesses who saw it happen. The attorneys allege that beginning around Sept. 13, 2017, they escorted these men to be interviewed by the Sheriff’s Department and lodge complaints. All seven of the men—six of whom were black, one of whom was white—recalled being solicited for sex by Buck and then injected with crystal methamphetamine. According to the lawsuit, neither Lacey nor Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva read or even heard about these complaints. On July 26, 2018, Lacey declined to prosecute Buck.
“The fact that the federal charges includes the accounts of all of these men shows that the county failed in its obligation,” Turk told reporters Wednesday. “They didn’t take seriously the complaints of black gay men... The fact that it took two years to investigate their claims is unconstitutional.”
At the press conference last week, Lacey claimed that the district attorney’s investigation did not have sufficient information to charge Buck until recently, when a third overdose victim came forward and provided credible testimony. Nixon found the claim offensive.
“I was so happy that the feds came in and snatched [the investigation] from Jackie Lacey,” Nixon told reporters Wednesday. “I want to say a whole lot, but I’ll be nice. Jackie Lacey dragged her feet. It appalled me when I watched the press conference. I didn’t even watch it all the way through, I was so appalled. She tried to take credit for our work. It was our whole team that did this. If we had let it die, we wouldn’t have been here.”
According to Nixon, Moore and many of the victims they escorted to authorities had already reported Buck’s behavior to police even before then.
“Gemmel told me about Mr. Buck years ago, back in 2016,” Nixon said. “The story just seemed so crazy, I didn’t believe it. But then when he called me crying, I knew something was wrong. So I did tell him to go to the police station and the hospital. He went to the police station. They told him to get out.”
Nixon and Moore were originally from Los Angeles. But a few years back, Nixon, a mother of five, moved to Texas to be closer to her sister. Moore decided to stay in Los Angeles. “I would talk to Gemmel all the time. We were close. He had visited a couple times. Every couple of months,” she said. “He was here right before he came back here and was murdered.”
On July 28, 2017, Nixon received a phone call from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “I immediately knew something was wrong,” she said. The day before, Moore had flown to Los Angeles from Texas on a flight paid for by Buck. He died hours after arriving. “The coroner told me my son was found naked, dead on the mattress at Edward Buck’s house,” his mother recalled. “The name didn’t click. I called around to his friends and they’re the ones that said ‘Ed Buck.’ Then it clicked.”
Nixon spoke to Moore’s father and tried to figure out what they could do.”I kept calling the coroner, the Sheriff’s Department, asking them to investigate because I knew something was wrong,” she said. “Every parent knows their child, and Gemmel was scared of needles.”
Nixon went on to describe Moore. “He loved to cook,” she said. “I wish you could have met him. He was hilarious. He had so many jokes. I know he was working in the legal field. He had a lot of aspirations. He was just trying to figure it out.”
Nixon brought several of Moore’s close friends to the press conference: Cory McLean, Jerome Kitchen, and David Cunningham. Cunningham, a prominent West Hollywood activist, has been pushing for an investigation into Buck since Moore’s death.
“The main reason Ed Buck was able to elude any justice is because he was a white man,” Cunningham said. “In order for people from our community to feel safe, we have to turn predators... I was a sex worker before. I was addicted to drugs. I walked this life with Gemmel, and the Gemmel I knew would never use drugs.”
The federal complaint filed last week painted a disturbing picture of Buck, whom the victims interviewed by prosecutors called “Dr. Kevorkian.” It described a man willing to risk the lives of his sexual partners for thrills, even after Moore’s death. Timothy Dean, the second man to die in Buck’s home, was found in January. And the third man’s overdose, which triggered Buck’s arrest, happened Sept. 11.
Federal authorities have made clear Buck could face further charges. Nixon said that’s what she has been asking for all along.
“My son died here,” she said. “When all the cameras go away, I have to deal with the fact that my son is not here. I can’t touch him. I can’t hug him. I can’t talk to him. My son died here. My child, that I birthed out of my body. All I have is memories. You may see me looking like I have it all together. I am dying. A piece of me died.”