Prosecutors are considering filing charges in the fatal overdose of a young African-American man who died in the West Hollywood home of wealthy, gay, 63-year-old Democratic donor Ed Buck.
The death of Gemmel Moore, 26, was previously ruled an accident by sheriff’s deputies in July 2017, accredited to an overdose of self-injected methamphetamine. However, after pressure from Moore’s family to further investigate the death, authorities have come across evidence that Moore may not have self-administered the drugs that killed him.
A notebook found in Moore’s possession showed that he used drugs with another person, whose name is redacted from the coroner’s report. Moore appears to have written, “Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth,” according to the Los Angeles Times, who have reviewed pages of the recovered notebook.
Other entries indicate that Moore was trying to recover from the drug, without a clear way out.
"I pray that I can just get my life together and make sense. I help so many people but can't seem to help myself. I honestly don't know what to do," one December journal entry reads. "I've become addicted to drugs and the worse one at that. … I just hope the end result isn't death."
Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, has questioned whether Buck’s political presence and the difference in race and class between the donor and her son contributed to a skewed investigation. Buck is a longtime political donor, a previous candidate for West Hollywood City Council, and well-known in LGBTQ political circles. Moore was homeless and working as a sex worker at the time of his death.
The day he died, Moore had flown from Houston to Los Angeles, and Buck has bought his plane ticket, according to Moore’s mother.
Prosecutors began reviewing Moore’s case on July 10, 2018 after being approached by sheriff’s investigators, according to spokesperson for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office Greg Risling.
“It remains under review,” Risling said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, emphasized the coroners’ original ruling that Moore’s death was accidental.
“This was a tragedy, but it’s no excuse to accuse an innocent man of acts he did not do,” Amster said, expressing that he believed, were there a case worthy of examination by authorities, “I think an arrest warrant probably would’ve gone out a long time ago.”
After Moore’s body was initially found, Amster claimed that Buck was a friend to Moore, that Moore had self-administered the fatal injection, and that Buck had done nothing wrong. After reviewing the autopsy report, Amster reiterated his stance, claiming that Buck “did not witness it being injected."
"I think it's time to bring this tragedy to a conclusion," Amster said. "This was an accidental death. This was an unfortunate death … but that doesn't mean we can make spurious accusations and spin something out of control."
Risling refrained from clarifying if investigators had recommended any criminal charges in the case as of yet, and if so against whom.