UPDATE, Aug. 15: The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department's homicide bureau “has assigned several investigators to review the circumstances of the death to determine if any criminal culpability exists,” according to a sheriff's statement.
Sheriff's officials say the case is closed on the recent death of a 26-year-old suspected of overdosing on methamphetamine at the West Hollywood apartment of political influencer Ed Buck. But the mother of the man, Gemmel Moore, says Buck should be held accountable for her son’s death.
Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon, says that about a year ago her son called her crying about Buck. He was scared, she says, and his experiences with the 62-year-old inspired him to leave Los Angeles and return to her Texas home. She also says he was struggling with homelessness and an HIV diagnosis.
A day before his death, Moore flew back to Los Angeles, according to Nixon. She says Buck sent him a plane ticket. “My second oldest son took him to the airport, texted me, said he made it,” she says. “Five, six hours later I get a phone call. They tell me my son is dead.”
Forty-six-year-old tech support worker John Bice lives near Moore's mother in Texas and says he tried to counsel the man away from drugs when Moore was in town this summer.
“Basically he told me this guy [Buck] 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,” Bice says. “He said it wasn't an uncommon thing that there were several young guys like him in and out of the house or who hung around all the time. He wanted to see them get high, first with weed. Then one day the guy wanted him [Moore] to shoot up. He'd wake up after being shot up naked in bed.”
Buck did not respond to requests for comment.
Moore died July 27 at a residence in the 1200 block of North Laurel Avenue in West Hollywood, according to Los Angeles County coroner's officials. Sheriff's Lt. Edward Ramirez says the death was reported at 10:10 p.m. and gave an address and apartment number that matches the address and apartment number that Buck has listed as his residence in public documents.
The initial cause was listed as accidental, with meth serving as the agent of death, according to coroner's records. But an exact determination could take months: Investigators are awaiting toxicology reports, and there's a backlog of cases.
“This preliminary information was from somebody with him as he was doing meth, and they [coroner's officials at the scene] collected suspected illicit drugs, pipes and a number of items,” says Department of Medical-Examiner Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter. “He had a history of methamphetamine use.”
Winter also says the case is closed. “According to our information, he was visiting his friend's residence and, witnessed by his friend, he become warm after using methamphetamine around 5 p.m.,” Winter says. “[The unnamed friend] got him some ice, then noticed he became unresponsive, notified a neighbor who has medical knowledge, who gave him CPR. Paramedics arrived, weren’t able to resuscitate him, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.”
The death was first reported by WeHoTimes.com.
Earlier today, pages reportedly from Moore's diary that describe his drug use with Buck were published on the blog of journalist and political consultant Jasmyne Cannick. Cannick writes: “Among Moore’s personal belongings collected by his family today from the coroner’s office was a journal in which he documents his feelings about the direction of his life and the role of Ed Buck in it.”
One undated journal entry states: “I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worse [sic] one at that. Ed Buck is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth. It was very painful but after all the troubles I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy. … I just hope the end result isn’t death. … If it didn’t hurt so bad I’d kill myself but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.”
Buck, a onetime male model, burst on the national spotlight in 1987 when he led the effort to recall then-Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, a politician who has drawn comparisons to Donald Trump. Buck, who at the time was a Republican, made money in the insurance services business and decamped to West Hollywood, remaining active in politics and becoming a Democrat. He unsuccessfully ran for West Hollywood City Council, successfully ran a campaign to rid the city of fur retailers, and poured money into election efforts. His political activity has placed him in photographs with Hillary Clinton and Gov. Jerry Brown. He once clashed with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
There's no open sheriff's investigation into Moore's death, Ramirez of the West Hollywood sheriff's station says. “There isn't anything suspicious about it,” he says. “There's nothing pointing toward death at the hands of another, so it's not something we would do any follow-up on.”
Moore's mother, Nixon, says she fears that Buck's prominent standing in West Hollywood is affecting the decision to close the case. From her home in Spring, Texas, she has been digging into the events leading up to Moore's demise.
Moore was raised in Victorville. He moved out when he was 17, according to Nixon, who says she moved to Texas five years ago. She says her son found roommates, couch-surfed, partied and did what he could to survive in urban Los Angeles. After he moved to her home in Spring, he discovered he was HIV-positive, she says.
“I didn't know any of that until he came here,” she says. “He tested when he came out here. He didn't look his normal self.”
“I never expected him to go back out there” to L.A., says Bice, who counseled Moore. “He definitely was scared. He was also battling depression. He was lonely. I figured he was trying to get back out there to see friends he had out there.”
Nixon says friends of her son told her about Buck and his alleged proclivity for watching young men shoot up methamphetamine.
Childhood friend Samuel Lloyd, 28, says Moore roomed with him in South Los Angeles for two years recently. He says he heard from Moore and another friend that Buck enjoyed watching young men get high.
“He would need money for something or whatever,” Lloyd says of Moore.
Lloyd says that after he found out about Moore's death he took his story to police, but that they haven't followed up.
Nixon says she, too, talked to a sheriff's deputy about it, and the the deputy responded: “We're just going to treat it as an accidental overdose.”