Supporters of the family of Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old who died at the West Hollywood home of noted political contributor Ed Buck, are sharply criticizing Democratic politicians who have benefited from Buck's financial largesse. Several high-profile activists have launched a petition calling on officials who took campaign cash from Buck to return it and contribute to a fund set up to help the deceased's family.
After some foot-dragging, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has opened a homicide case into the demise of the African-American man on July 27 at the apartment of Buck. The coroner's office initially found that the death was accidental and caused by an overdose of methamphetamine. Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon, campaigned for the Sheriff's Department to dig deeper after alleging that Buck scared her son, and liked to watch him shoot up meth.
A friend of Moore's, 46-year-old John Bice, said Moore told him this, too. "Basically this guy would find young struggling black guys around town, pick them up and say he was going to help them out — make sure they had clothes and food. ... He wanted to see them get high, first with weed. Then one day, the guy wanted him to shoot up."
Political consultant and commentator Jasmyne Cannick published what she described as pages of Moore's journal, in which he wrote that Buck "gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth" and that "I just hope the end result isn't death."
Last night, Cannick announced that an attorney who's been working alongside her to counsel Nixon, Nana Gyamfi, has received a promise of immunity for "several" men who want to speak to detectives regarding similar alleged experiences with Buck but who were afraid that their status as sex workers would get them arrested. "We are pleased that the district attorney has finally provided a binding written agreement of immunity," Gyamfi said in a statement.
Buck's attorney, Seymour I. Amster, said previously that his client welcomes the investigation, "but I think nothing will come of it."
We reached out to the California Democratic Party but did not receive a response. U.S. Rep. Karen Bass is the only politician so far who has returned a campaign contribution from Buck and then donated the same amount — $250 — to Moore’s family, organizers of the petition said.
Democratic Party veteran Kimberly Ellis, a onetime candidate for the job of state chair, did not withhold her outrage in speaking about the silence she says she's encountered.
"It suggests money and power can oftentimes have a greater influence over our elected officials than doing what's right," she says. "This is a test in many ways for the Democratic Party and our elected officials to really stand up and speak out and make it very clear whose side they're on — justice and LGBTQs or special interests and big-dollar donors."
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Organizers included a list of recipients of Buck's cash, including notable local and state leaders. But not all Democratic Party adherents have been quiet about the case. The Stonewall Democratic Club Los Angeles has called for a "thorough investigation." The organization says it demanded Buck resign from its steering committee, and that he did so. Club board member Ashlee Marie Preston, who recently made headlines by confronting Caitlyn Jenner and calling her a "fraud," says, "We were one of the first groups in the political sphere to speak up and do the right thing.
"I was disappointed more people didn't speak out, people with direct affiliations with Buck didn't speak up of offer condolences," the transgender activist said. "They're burying their heads in the sand."
She argued that this is an opportunity for Democrats to speak up for the kind of dispossessed people — Moore was gay, HIV-positive and at times homeless — the party professes to represent.
"This is an opportunity for politicians to draw a clear line as to what their values are, what they want to prioritize and where they stand on social issues," she says. "What would we say if this involved a prominent GOP figure? People would be busting down the door to make a statement."