WEST HOLLYWOOD, California—In court papers, Los Angeles prosecutors say that political activist and donor Ed Buck’s predatory behavior led to the drug-related deaths of two black men in his home before he was arrested Tuesday in connection with the overdose of a third.
What they don’t say is why Buck wasn’t charged in the first two cases—a question that those who have been seeking justice for the men are angrily asking.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that it took a third black gay man to be attacked and almost die to finally dissolve the unconscionable apathy that has allowed Ed Buck, a racist sexual predator, to roam free,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who represents a district adjacent to Buck’s neighborhood, told the Associated Press.
“Everyone knew that he preyed on young black men... The inaction in response had a message that was loud and clear: Black gay lives obviously didn’t matter.”
Buck, 65, is in custody, awaiting an arraignment that was scheduled to happen Wednesday but was postponed for unknown reasons. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment but has previously denied that his client was responsible for the overdoses.
In a request for high bail, prosecutors say otherwise.
Prosecutors described Buck as a “malevolent” predator who used his money and power to lure vulnerable men facing drug addiction and homelessness to his West Hollywood apartment, where he allegedly indulged a dangerous fetish: injecting them with methamphetamine for porn-fueled sex marathons.
Two men died in Buck’s apartment over the course of two years: Gemmel Moore, 26, in July 2017; and Timothy Dean, 55, in January 2019.
Moore’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Buck and county officials, presented officials with other men who said they were drugged, and loudly demanded that Buck be charged. They were disappointed that the charges unveiled Tuesday did not include homicide.
“I’m disappointed by how long it’s taken,” attorney Hussain Turk, who represents the family of one of the victims, told The Daily Beast. “It’s been two years. In that time, we’ve presented nine witnesses who’ve been forced to ingest drugs. The police did nothing with these reports.”
“The reason why we believe police did nothing with these reports is because of the races and sexual orientations of the victims—they’re black, gay, homeless, and people who are the most vulnerable of our society. The police don’t view them as valid witnesses.”
Turk said he believed that District Attorney Jackie Lacey brought charges against Buck this week because she had a public-relations disaster on her hands. Lacey’s office declined to comment.
In the court filing, prosecutors said a man identified only as Joe Doe was drugged by Buck on Sept. 4 and fled to seek medical help. A week later, Buck allegedly gave him a double dose of meth and then tried to stop him from getting help before he managed to get out and call 911 from a gas station.
One of Buck’s neighbors told The Daily Beast that she saw sheriff’s deputies talking to a young black man outside Buck’s apartment the afternoon of Sept. 11. They let him go, she said, and later returned looking for him.
“They let him just walk away, which I thought was ridiculous: the man had band-aids all over his arm,” said the neighbor, who asked that her name be withheld.
Police later asked the woman—who had tried to run after the man—if she knew where he went.
“The police walked up and down the block looking for him,” she said. “Clearly they’d lost him. I don’t understand why he’d been let go in the first place.”
The sheriff’s office would not confirm that the man seen by the neighbor was the man who called 911.
The neighbor said the episode wasn’t the first time she had been unsettled by goings-on at Buck’s apartment. Over the summer, she said, she got a “bad feeling” when she saw a young man being buzzed into the home—and called police.
“My heart kind of dropped when I saw him,” the neighbor said. “I just felt nervous. I was walking my dogs and I went right back home and dialed 911.”
She said police told her Buck was a private citizen and they couldn’t send a police car to his house to check out the situation.
“I understood that, I really did, I know there are laws. But I was so frustrated I called them back three times just kind of pleading with them to please send a car by, just to drive past, but they didn’t think that was a good idea.”
Prosecutors now say that Buck was operating a drug den out of his apartment. And they say that when they searched it, they found evidence of what Moore’s family and community activists have been saying all along: that he was a serial predator.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found hundreds of photos taken in Defendant Buck’s residence, of men in compromising positions,” they wrote. “It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable men dies of an overdose.”