Dead Body Found in Home of Major Democratic Donor -- Again

by | January 8, 2019 AT 7:20 AM

By Richard Winton and Hailey Branson-Potts

A man's body was found early Monday in the West Hollywood home of prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck, authorities said.

It was the second time a man was found dead at Buck's apartment. Buck is a longtime political donor, a one-time West Hollywood City Council candidate and a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles.

Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's West Hollywood station responded to the Laurel Avenue apartment complex at 1:05 a.m. in response to a report of a person not breathing, the department said in a statement. At some point, the 911 caller performed CPR, the department said.

Paramedics pronounced a man dead at the scene. The cause of death was not yet known.

The dead man's name has not been released, but Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department, said he was black.

Buck previously was investigated for the death of another black man, the 2017 overdose of Gemmel Moore, 26.

Buck was present for the deaths of both men, the Sheriff's Department said Monday.

Buck's attorney, Seymour Amster, said Buck was not arrested and is cooperating with investigators.

"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.

Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon of Texas, and his friends 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.

. Moore had been homeless and had worked as an escort. Buck, 64, is white.

The coroner ruled Moore's death an accident, and an initial review by sheriff's deputies found nothing suspicious. But the following month, homicide detectives launched a new investigation.

Prosecutors this summer declined to file charges against Buck, citing insufficient evidence, according to court records. In a charge evaluation worksheet dated July 26, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said 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."

The document also cited an inadmissible search and seizure but did not provide details.

The district attorney's office reviewed and rejected four charges: murder, voluntary manslaughter, and furnishing and possessing drugs.

Moore had flown from Houston to Los Angeles the day he died, according to coroner's investigators. Moore's mother said Buck bought his airplane ticket.

The Times reviewed pages of a journal that authorities said was found among Moore's possessions. In it, Moore purportedly 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 continues: "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."

West Hollywood Councilman John D'Amico on Monday said he asked the city manager to contact the sheriff and push for an investigation after the latest death.

"I have no further comment at this time. I'm going to let the D.A. and LASD do their jobs," D'Amico said.

Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath said she has been in contact with the captain of the local sheriff station and tried to reach Sheriff Alex Villanueva directly.

"I support a full investigation of all facts related to this case as well as full consideration of all facts by the district attorney," she said. "I am sick and heartbroken by the facts we know so far."

In response to Monday's death, the Los Angeles LGBT Center issued a statement calling for the Sheriff's Department to "fully investigate this tragedy and aggressively seek justice wherever the investigation might lead."

Buck became a nationally known figure in the late 1980s when he led the effort to impeach Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. News reports at the time described Buck as a conservative Republican.

The New York Times in 1987 described him as "a 33-year-old millionaire entrepreneur who retired from the insurance service business a year ago to found the Mecham Recall Committee."

Upon learning that Buck is gay, Mecham's aides distributed bumper stickers reading "Queer Ed Buck's Recall." The Arizona governor's efforts to dismiss the recall supporters -- whom he dubbed "a band of homosexuals and a few dissident Democrats" -- with comments about sexual orientation were pilloried in the "Doonesbury" comic strip.

More recently, Buck has donated to various Democratic causes.

Through June, Buck gave $23,600 to various California races and causes, including $7,600 to former state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) while was considering a run for lieutenant governor, according to campaign finance records.

He also donated to candidates running for election to the West Hollywood City Council, Los Angeles Unified School District board and state Senate, and he served on the Stonewall Democratic Club Steering Committee.

(c)2019 the Los Angeles Times