Early Monday morning, a Black man was found dead in the West Hollywood apartment of Ed Buck, a white millionaire who is a major Democratic donor and a big name in California’s LGBTQ activist circles. Though neither the dead man’s identity nor cause of death has been released yet, this story is getting national attention because this is the second time in 18 months that this has happened.
On July 27, 2017, the naked body of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found in Buck’s home, surrounded by drug paraphernalia. Moore was a Black sex worker who’d been homeless. The coroner’s report said he died of an accidental methamphetamine overdose. Buck was home at the time. Through attorney Seymour Amster, Buck claimed to have not witnessed Moore taking drugs. Amster further explained Moore’s presence at the apartment as Buck “helping the homeless to get a safe haven to take care of their sanitary needs.”
However, suspicions arose about Buck’s involvement in the fatal overdose as portions of Moore’s journals became public. In them, Moore reportedly wrote, “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.”
Moore’s mother LaTisha Nixon told the press, “Ed Buck has been soliciting young gay black men. He has them wear these long white ‘under-johns.’ He takes pictures of them. He hits them up with meth. The more meth that they smoke and inject, the more money that he gives them.”
In 2017, The Los Angeles Times reported that the police’s refusal to promise immunity to witnesses—who may be sex workers or drug users—has been an obstacle in investigating the Moore case. Buck was not indicted. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office cited insufficient evidence. At this, Moore’s mother declared, “It seems like everyone is turning a blind eye because my son was a gay black man and Ed Buck is a wealthy white politician.”
It was local political activism that pushed the LAPD to investigate Moore’s death in the first place. And now, the death of this unnamed man gives officials further cause to revaluate the Moore case. Sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred told KTLA, “It is suspicious that this has happened twice now. So we’re going to conduct a thorough investigation to determine if it is criminal in nature.”
With two Black men found dead in his home within 18 months, Buck will face greater scrutiny. National headlines mean the pressure on the police will heat up. And that pressure is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Fox News is jumping on this story as an excuse to drag prominent Democrats who received donations from Buck (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) into it. But however partisan Fox News’ agenda, they are drawing attention the case and to activists like Jasmyne Cannick, who said in a protest outside of Buck’s building on Monday night, “Arrest Ed Buck. Prosecute Ed Buck, and then a jury needs to convict Ed Buck. This man has had two dead bodies in his house, and he is still in his house.” (You can read Cannick’s full statement here.)
If another young, Black gay man overdoses or worse dies at Democratic donor Ed Buck’s apartment it’s going to be the fault of the sheriff’s dept and L.A. District Atty for not stopping him when they had the opportunity to. #GemmelMoore #Justice4Gemmel pic.twitter.com/jlbS2KTvNe— Jasmyne Cannick (@Jasmyne) July 28, 2018
Meanwhile, The Advocate is continuing to follow the story. The Root is calling out how white privilege and wealth may have shielded Buck thus far. Plus, they offer insight from Moore’s friend Samuel Lloyd into the millionaire’s allegedly predatory behavior:
“[Buck] went out there searching for other men that were struggling and on the streets and had no money…men who had never experienced drugs before. This is the kind of guys Ed Buck searched for.”
On Twitter, activist George M. Johnson challenged white allies and LGBTQ allies to use their voices to speak out for Moore and the unnamed man, who can no longer speak for themselves.
My thoughts on Ed Buck, white queer “allies” and why Black LGBTQ lives matter. Homophobia is killing us pic.twitter.com/vTloYgPlOB— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) January 7, 2019
“Buck was not indicted for Gemmel’s murder. We fought hard for that to happen. It didn’t happen. We’re not going to let that happen again,” Johnson says, “So, if you’re somebody who says, ‘Black lives matter,’ then Black LGBTQ lives matter. And you need to be speaking up about this. If you’re a white ally, advocate or part of the white queer community, this is the time that you need to step in.”
While some are taking issue with the characterizations of Buck as a Democratic donor and an LGBTQ advocate, those are the facts. Fox News can try to spin them to make Dems look bad, but the key thing here is these cases are a moment where liberals need to put aside appearances and do right by those for whom we claim to care, even if that means a brutal gut check and house cleaning. If the allegations that Buck is using his home and money to coerce impoverished Black men into harmful scenarios, his victims deserve justice. If Moore and this second man were victims of sexual misconduct that led to murder, their plight should appeal to Black Lives Matter, LGBTQA and Me Too supporters. And as this story heats up, we should—at the very least—expect to hear denouncements from Democrats who took donations from Buck. Beyond that, an investigation into how Buck may have been allowed to kill again might be required.
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