For the second time in two years, a black man’s body was found in the West Hollywood home of prominent Democratic activist and donor Ed Buck. The latest death prompted more than 100 local activists to hold a rally in front his apartment Monday night.
According to ABC News, the dead man, whose name has not been released, was in his 50s and the cause of his death is not yet known. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an investigation.
Buck is “a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles” according to the Los Angeles Times, and had friends in high places. The Democrat was previously investigated for the death of another black man, Gemmel Moore, 26, a homeless sex worker who overdosed in his home in 2017.
Buck, 64, was present when both men died, the sheriff’s department said. Buck’s attorney Seymour Amster said his client “is cooperating with investigators,” according to the Times.
“From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” Amster said. “The person came over intoxicated.”
Sheriff’s homicide investigators are “conducting a thorough investigation” of the most recent death and will do “follow-up interviews and a secondary review” of Moore’s death, the department said.
Capt. Chris Bergner of the sheriff’s homicide bureau said his detectives again will be “working very closely with the district attorney’s office” and will be “carefully examining all the evidence.”
Moore died of a methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s apartment in July 2017, according to a Los Angeles County coroner’s report. Paramedics found him naked on a mattress in the living room, which was littered with drug paraphernalia, the report said.
According to court records, prosecutors declined to file charges against Buck at the time, citing insufficient evidence.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office stated in a charge evaluation worksheet that the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that suspect Buck furnished drugs to Gemmel Moore or that suspect Buck possessed drugs.”
Moore’s friends and family have reportedly questioned whether “Buck’s ties to elected officials and differences in race and class influenced the investigation and whether the drugs that killed him were self-administered”:
Ted Lieu with Ed Buck pic.twitter.com/sYYnxU6fvq
— Piper Fogle (@Piper_Fogle) January 8, 2019
— Rich Newton (@Rich_Newton_) January 8, 2019
— Hunter (@Hunter_Tylerr) August 25, 2017
More than 100 local residents, including black community activists and local political figures, turned out for a rally Monday night demanding action by the sheriff’s department in the case:
— WEHOville (@WEHOville) January 8, 2019
Buck was reportedly at home during the rally, which took place in front of his apartment building:
The lights in his apartment turned on and off several times during the event. While Sheriff’s deputies and representatives of the L.A. County Coroner’s Office removed the body of the dead man around 9 a.m. this morning, Buck was not arrested or taken to the Sheriff’s Station for questioning. Several of those attending the rally said that would make it possible for Buck to destroy any incriminatory evidence.
An investigation into the death is being led by Detective Q. Rodriguez of the department’s Homicide Bureau. The identity of the dead man has not been revealed. While it is clear that he was African-American, he may not have been a young man. Cannick said that she had been told that he was in his 50s.
Rally-goers called for Buck’s arrest and also for a renewed investigation into Moore’s death. Moore was visiting his mother near Houston in July of 2017 when Buck bought him an airline ticket to fly back to Los Angeles and come to his apartment:
In a journal reviewed by the Times, Moore reportedly wrote in 2016 about using crystal methamphetamine. “I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that,” Moore purportedly wrote. “Ed Buck is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”
The entry continued: “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.”
According to the coroner’s report, an investigator found the following items in Buck’s two-bedroom apartment: 24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, clear plastic bags with white powdery residue and a clear plastic bag with a “piece of crystal-like substance.”
According to ABC News, authorities said they would do a secondary review of Moore’s death investigation.