There’s still a light on in Ed Buck’s apartment.
Pass by any night of the week. A cloth has been tacked over the windows, so you can’t see in, but light escapes over the edges. Someone is home.
Nothing about West Hollywood's Laurel Avenue suggests a crime scene or an investigation underway, unless you count some downed branches near Santa Monica Boulevard cordoned off with caution tape. An elderly woman shuffles up the block in the dark. A 30-something man walks by with his dog in the rain; it seems like it’s rained all month in Los Angeles, and it rarely rains here.
It’s been nearly a month since 55-year-old Timothy Dean died in the West Hollywood building on Laurel Avenue, a month since nearly 100 protesters and reporters trampled the lawn and wondered aloud if this second death would result in Buck’s arrest.
A neighbor checks her mail. She passes Buck’s door at least twice a day. She hasn’t seen him, she says. She hasn’t seen any young Black men come and go either, a marked difference from what neighbors reported in early January after Dean turned up dead in Buck’s home.
Buck has long been accused of drugging Black men in his home. In 2017, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore died in his apartment on North Laurel Avenue of an apparent methamphetamine overdose. The cause of Dean’s death has yet to be determined, however.
“We are absolutely going 100 percent on this,” Detective Quilmes Rodriguez, the homicide investigator on the case for the Sheriff’s Department, told The Advocate. “You have to be able to have a provable crime. It’s called probable cause. We’re not quite there yet.”
But Rodriguez added it’s a “terrible case.” He called Moore and Dean “victims,” as if he too believes there has been a crime.
On Monday night, the West Hollywood Council meeting was plagued by protest. The meeting opened with a remembrance of residents who recently passed. Among them are a “do-it-yourself dog wash business owner” and barber. Councilmember Lindsey Horvath remembered victims of the SunTrust bank shooting in Florida.
But the deaths on most minds are those that happened on Laurel Avenue, at Buck’s apartment. Residents wanted to know how councilmembers remained in their seats and Buck in his home while two Black men took their last breaths at the same address.
Jerome Kitchen, Moore’s friend, blamed the Sheriff’s Department and the council for Dean’s death.
“It was a lack of sympathy and empathy and justice to the community of color,” Kitchen said. “It was lack of investigation because the two dead bodies do not look like you guys.”
Buck’s attorney Seymour Amster previously said his client hasn’t done anything wrong. Dean and Buck were friends of 25 years, he claimed. According to him, Dean showed up to Buck’s under the influence of drugs and Buck tried to counsel him through a hard time.
Amster did not respond to multiple requests to make Buck available for an interview, and Buck didn't respond directly to a request to be interviewed either.
A coalition of 41 organizations have demanded that officials investigate Buck thoroughly.
On Monday, West Hollywood Station Acting Captain Lt. William Moulder tried to assure the Council and the crowd that his department had the resources and commitment to carry through an investigation.
“I can tell you that our homicide bureau, our investigators, have been doing quite a few interviews as late as last week,” Moulder said. “We’re analyzing some evidence that’s been collected. That’s being processed at this time as well.”
Horvath pressed Moulder on reports that investigators failed to interview several male sex workers who received letters of immunity from the District Attorney’s office.
Moulder couldn’t exactly account for the delay, only that multiple interviews were taking place. However, Detective Rodriguez told The Advocate that detectives are moving to speak to those witnesses.
“We are definitely going to be interviewing them,” he said.
Horvath also asked Moulder how the Sheriff’s Department will prevent similar deaths, to which he sputtered that, “...parts of addressing it, seeing that it won’t happen again, with these particular people, with this particular individual, so the investigation is proceeding and part of that will inform that question once the investigation is completed.”
Horvath offered the city and its resources to the Department in seeing that through.
Still lingering is the question of Dean’s official cause of death. The autopsy is incomplete pending toxicology results, but is expected back by mid-February, Rodriguez said. Still, law enforcement placed a security hold on the autopsy, meaning that it won’t immediately be made public.
“I cannot release any information about the case,” Sarah Ardalani, public information officer for Los Angeles County's Medical Examiner-Coroner, told The Advocate in an email. “A security hold lasts for a year, but law enforcement can request an extension if needed.”
In an especially tense exchange Monday, Councilmember John Heilman asked if the Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit is engaged in the investigation. Moulder said they are not.
After Dean’s death, investigators searched Buck’s home.
“We recovered some evidence from there of drug paraphernalia of the sort,” Rodriguez told The Advocate.
Drugs alone are not enough to warrant an arrest, he added. “We have almost decriminalized drug use in the state.”
The punishment for possession of meth in California is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty up to a year of jail time and/or a $1,000 fine.
So Buck remains at home, it seems.
On March 5, 11 candidates will face off for for just three City Council seats. Last week’s candidate forum ended with accusations that the contendors ignored the deaths. Following, a white man called Kitchen the “N word” and a “monkey” in front a crowd of people.
Monday’s council meeting similary spilled into the hall, with a face-off between Kitchen, activists, and Sheriff’s deputies. Kitchen repeatedly told them that 19 months after his friends death, “we have nothing.”
“What do we want? Justice!” protestors chanted as they left the chambers and headed into a downpour. The press swarmed Moulder.
Throughout West Hollywood, campaign signs for city council elections appear in windows. By midnight, on the east side of the city, the light at Ed Buck’s apartment will go dark. The rain in Los Angeles will continue steadily through the night, but Buck, it seems, will have gone to sleep.