LOS ANGELES—Chanting “arrest him now,” a group protest erupted outside the home of wealthy Democratic donor Ed Buck on Monday night after a second man died inside his apartment within 18 months.
Dozens of people gathered at the white stucco apartment block in West Hollywood, demanding the arrest of Buck, 64, a former model and businessman. They claimed “lightning doesn’t strike twice.”
Buck, who resigned last year from the steering committee of the Stonewall Democratic Club, was previously investigated for the death of Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old black man who died of a methamphetamine overdose in July 2017 in the same apartment. Moore was found naked on a mattress in the living room, littered with drug paraphernalia, according to a coroner’s report into his death.
Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide bureau began an investigation into the death of another man—who is said to have been a black man in his fifties. They said they are also conducting a “secondary review” of Moore’s death. Last July, the district attorney’s office declined to file charges in the Moore case, citing insufficient evidence.
Jasmyne Cannick, a community activist who has worked with Moore’s family and conducted her own investigation into his death, led last night’s protest and said the district attorney and sheriff’s department have blood on their hands for failing to properly investigate Buck.
Buck became a nationally known political activist in 1987 when he led an effort to impeach Republican Arizona Governor Evan Mecham. At the time Mecham called his critics a “band of homosexuals and dissident Democrats.” Mecham was later impeached over fraud and perjury allegations.
Since then he has made thousands of dollars of donations to Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Kyrsten Sinema, the new U.S. senator for Arizona. California records show he recently donated to current LA mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017, former state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León, and the current attorney general, Xavier Becerra. (He also donated $100 to current Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey's successful campaign for election in 2012. Lacey was the DA who declined to file charges in the death of Moore last July.)
Other prominent California Democrats Buck has donated to include Ted Lieu, who was previously California State Senator and is now a member of Congress and Mike Feuer who has been LA City Attorney since 2013.
Cannick claims Buck lures men to his apartment for dangerous sexual encounters. She says she has uncovered evidence from Moore’s journal and from other men who say that Buck promises money to people and then injects them with crystal meth for his own gratification.
Speaking to the large crowd at the rally, she said: “I’m not surprised, none of us are surprised. We said that Jackie Lacey [L.A. County district attorney] is going to have blood on her hands and the sheriff’s department is going to have blood on its hands.
“This man has had two dead bodies in his house and he’s still in his house. The fact that Ed Buck is a prominent Democratic donor should concern us all.
“He spreads his money around to get access and influence into these powerful circles and we need our party to say no, no longer. I’m out here just as a black person I’m outraged, as a Democrat I’m outraged.
“He needs to be arrested, he needs to be sent to county jail with no bail, he needs to be charged and then he needs to be convicted and sent to prison. Not just for the person who died today, but also for Gemmel Moore’s death. It wasn’t thoroughly investigated.”
Cannick said Moore’s mother, Latisha Nixon—who helped her investigate her son’s death—was “beside herself” at the news of the latest death at Buck’s home, she said Nixon told her: “We told them that this was going to happen.”
Cannick added: “Besides mourning for her son, who should be alive and celebrating his 28th birthday, now she's mourning for somebody else.
“Justice doesn’t always come right away, even if it’s two years later and they get Ed Buck, I think his family will be OK with that, I think the community would be OK with that. But we’re not OK with this idea of this man being allowed to continue to live as usual in his apartment.”
It was unclear if Buck was home as the protest erupted underneath his window. A light was on in the apartment, but neighbors said he had left and was staying with friends.
The crowd chanted “arrest him now” and “black lives matter” as cops watched from across the street. Others shouted: “It’s a death chamber,” “this is a cemetery” and “black boys are dying here, nothing’s happening.”
Some protesters turned on the occupants who live in the same apartment block, accusing them of being “complicit” by not doing more to stop Buck and suggested it was racism that had led to inaction in the case.
Castigating residents who had gathered on the front steps of the block, one crowd member shouted: “If you see a black person going into this apartment, tell them ‘Don’t go in there. You’re going to die.’ Don’t be polite.”
Cannick added: “You see somebody black going up there, you need to come outside and say ‘Don’t do it, don’t go up there.’ Because this is literally like a real life Get Out movie. Somebody’s got to warn them.”
As part of her investigation, Cannick and Moore’s family published pages from his diary in which he alleged that it was Buck who introduced him to narcotics. In one excerpt from December 2016, he wrote: “I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that. Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of crystal meth it was very painful, but after all the troubles, I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy.”
In another entry, he wrote: “My life is at an alltime [sic] high right now & I mean that from all ways. I ended up back at Buck [sic] house again and got manipulated into slamming (injecting drugs) again. I even went to the point where I was forced to doing 4 within a 2day period. This man is crazy and its sad. Will I ever get help?”
He also wrote: “If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself, but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.”
Cannick says she has spoken to several other gay black men who claim Buck would invite them to his house and pay them to take drugs and “Party ‘n’ Play”—meaning to get high and perform sex acts.
Last night, she said: “If you remember the coroner’s report from 2017, his home was littered with drug paraphernalia. It was a treasure trove of drugs. All of the young men that we interviewed all confirmed that he has to be the one to inject you with the meth, that he likes to have control over you, that the more you take, the more money he’s willing to pay you. That only works on vulnerable people, who need money.”
Dallas Fowler, a delegate to the California Democratic Party who helped Carrick investigate Moore’s death, was also at the rally. She said: “This is not totally shocking because we knew he was still actively seeking and recruiting men, but more heart-breaking because it could have been prevented.”
She told The Daily Beast she and others had tried to get former Los Angeles Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman to disown Buck after Moore’s death, but it was met with silence. Bauman stood down last November following his own sexual-misconduct allegations.
Fowler said: “I supported the effort to try to get our party chair at the time, Eric Bauman, to repudiate the actions and activities of Ed Buck, they were dead silent at the time. A number of these individuals, including Eric Bauman, received a number of contributions from Mr. Buck and so it really spoke to the cost of silence around that case. Six months ago, the District Attorney’s Office said they weren’t going to prosecute. Even though there were survivors of Ed Buck who spoke and could testify to the fact that he injected them against their will.
“Gemmell left a journal which was very telling, but not only his journal but also the testimonies of the survivors of Ed Buck. Jasmyne really laid it out well on her website. It was Pulitzer in my mind.”
Brian Hamilton, 54, who lives in the neighborhood, and also knows Buck, said: “I know him. I haven’t been this close to him in probably five years, wouldn’t want to come close to him, he needs help and now he’s hurting other people. Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, as they say. This is an exact carbon copy of the circumstance of the July 2017. It’s not a coincidence. My impression of him now, I think he’s a very dark soul, he needs help, he needs rehab but beyond that he might even be criminally liable and there needs to be more active investigation, I think they let that go to soon after the last time. He’s very dangerous. We know there are risks with drug using, but when it becomes potentially homicidal that’s different.”
Buck’s lawyer, Seymour Amster, told the Los Angeles Times the man died of an accidental overdose. He claimed he was an old friend of Buck’s who had come over “intoxicated,” adding, “We believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment.”
However, The Daily Beast spoke to one neighbor who claimed to have seen the victim arrive and buzz in just after midnight and said he appeared “fine.”
The woman, who declined to be named, had thought the man looked more like he was in his thirties, said: “I saw him go into the building at 12:15 a.m. I was walking the dogs and I was walking by and he was buzzing in and I knew where he was going, based on that I’ve lived here for very long and I know what goes on there.
“I looked at him because I felt bad, because I was here the last time this happened, so I really kind of looked at him, but he seemed fine, he didn’t seem under the influence at all, he seemed completely fine.
“He was on his own, he was bundled up, he looked like he was wearing a coat and a hat, he was wearing something colorful, maybe a scarf. He was African American.
“When I woke up this morning and I came out and I saw the news trucks, I actually thought it was Buck [who died], they said no the guy that who went in, I thought Jesus Christ I saw him go in. I was horrified and really saddened and disgusted."
The woman, who said she has known Buck for 30 years, added: “This is really, really shocking to me. He’s always been a good guy, he’s a helpful neighbor. I saw him a few days ago, he’s always cordial. I would like for this to be investigated fully, I don’t want to see this happen again, it shouldn’t have happened again, something’s wrong. This really needs to be looked into.”
Buck has lived in the rent-controlled apartment block for the last 22 years. The Daily Beast spoke to several people who live there who gave alarming accounts of his behavior.
Beatriz Albuquerque, 29, who lives in the apartment next door to Buck, told how he has men over almost every day.
She said, “Usually it’s like one a day, but almost every day he has somebody come over. Every time he has people over, they’re usually quiet, it’s not like he has crazy parties.”
Albuquerque and her husband, Josh Tedla, 31, said Buck’s guests seem “normal but sometimes a little weird” and they often hang around the building after visiting or sit on the doorstep calling Buck to get back in. Tedla said the only noise he heard on Sunday was possibly furniture moving around.
Albuquerque spoke to Buck after Moore’s death, she said, “He always talked about it as an accident, he didn’t say like anything was his fault or anything but I don’t think he would. He said that he was feeling very relieved.”
She added, “It’s freaky, it’s sad, it’s scary, I’m uncomfortable with it. The fact that it’s happened before and now it’s happening again. He’s a nice neighbor, he’s cordial, he always says hello, but you never know what a person does when they’re in their apartments. I guess it is like a double life.”
Jeff Mitchell, 41, saw Buck just before he left in a cop car in the early hours of Monday morning. He told The Daily Beast, “I saw him this morning. He was a little beside himself. He said his friend had come over and OD’d and that was all he told me. Then the cops took him away and I left.”
Mitchell said he did not see the man who died last night, but recalled seeing Moore arrive when he died at Buck’s: “I saw him come into the apartment at about 3 p.m. and leave in a body bag about 7 p.m., four hours later.
“He [Buck] went into hiding for a while, and then I just never brought it up again and he was staying with his lawyer last time. He left, he’s probably staying with friends, he’ll be away for a while.”
Cops were called to Buck's home just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 7 to a “person not breathing.” The man was pronounced dead at the scene and the cause of death is unknown.
Buck has not been arrested. However, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it is reopening the investigation into Moore’s death in light of the latest fatality.
Nune Arnautovic, the property manager, told The Daily Beast the owner wanted to evict him after Moore’s death, but wasn’t able to, he said: “We try, my owner tried to evict him, it doesn’t happen because he’s not in the jail, he’s not convicted of a crime. How can they do it? I don’t know rules. I don’t know if somebody protect him.”
Arnautovic said police took away CCTV footage from the property today. He also said Buck was the person who called 911. He said they will try again to evict him after the second death, adding, “We will try for sure. I hope, I will be so happy [if they get him out].”
Jerome Kitchen, 30, a local community activist and health educator, who was a close friend of Moore’s, was also at the rally. He said the news of another death had caused him to be sick and that he plans to return there every day until authorities act.
He said: “I pulled over and I instantly threw up because I felt like that moment happened all over again. This is like his death all over again to us. While Gemmel’s mother is planning to memorialize her son on his birthday on Sunday, another mother will be planning to bury her child.”