Death of Gemmel Moore at Home of Animal Activist, Political Donor Ed Buck Sparks New LA Inquiry

ANIMAL WATCH-The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission has asked for more information on the investigation into Gemmel Moore’s death, Wehoville announced on October 23, 2018. 

In a September 27 email to the West Hollywood City Council, the Human Relations Commission said its questions "arose from a public hearing on policing and human relations that was specifically geared to hearing from women and the LGBT community." 

This story first appeared on CityWatch on August 14, 2017. But, more facts quickly and steadily unfolded, mainly due to the efforts of Jasmyne Cannick, a media strategist and nationally known writer and commentator on race, politics and social issues, who delved into Buck's relationship with Gemmel and other young black men she says have stepped forward to tell their experiences. Cannick also worked with Gemmel's mother and was the first to publish the excerpts from Moore’s personal journal, in which he reveals his relationship with Buck. 

THE DEATH OF GEMMEL MOORE 

On July 27, 2017, paramedics received a 911 call from the Laurel Avenue, West Hollywood, apartment of Ed Buck, a 62-year-old affluent animal activist, Democratic political donor, and well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles since his college days in Arizona. 

The coroner's report obtained by the LA Times revealed that when paramedics entered Buck’s apartment, the living room floor was littered with drug paraphernalia and a male porn film was playing. On a mattress in the middle of the floor was the naked, dead body of Gemmel "Juelz" Moore, a 26-year-old gay black man. Nearby was a cabinet filled with sex toys, syringes and what paramedics described as “suspected methamphetamine,” according to a report by Wehoville

Los Angeles County coroner's officials concluded that Moore died from a methamphetamine overdose and ruled it an accident. According to The Times report, sheriff’s deputies were not advised of any unusual circumstances that indicated any other illegal activity. 

LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced on August 15, 2017, that homicide detectives were launching a new investigation into the circumstances of Gemmel Moore’s death, after hearing the pleas of Gemmel's mother, LaTisha Nixon, out of “an abundance of caution.” 

LaTisha Nixon flew from Texas to West Hollywood and called for an investigation of whether the drugs that killed her son were self-administered. Nixon organized a vigil in front of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and spoke before the WeHo City Council. 

She has acknowledged that her son worked as a prostitute, and she has alleged that Buck hired him and encouraged him to use drugs, according to WEHOville.  

However, on July 26, 2018, the Los Angeles District Attorney filed a document with the Superior Court declining to file charges against wealthy animal activist and political donor Ed Buck in connection with the fatal overdose of Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old gay black man, at Buck’s West Hollywood home, citing "insufficient evidence," according to the LA Times. 

Sheriff’s investigators presented their case to prosecutors on July 10, Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, told The Times. The district attorney’s office reportedly rejected four charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter, and furnishing and possessing drugs, stating that the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Buck gave Gemmel Moore drugs or is responsible for the man’s July 2017 death.   

Seymour Amster, an attorney representing Buck, told the LA Times, “This was a tragedy, but it’s no excuse to accuse an innocent man of acts he did not do,” Amster said. If authorities had a case, he added, “I think an arrest warrant probably would’ve gone out a long time ago.” 

The allegations about Buck shocked animal activists in Los Angeles, where Buck had appeared and testified at hearings held by Councilman Paul Koretz (previously a member of the West Hollywood City Council) and have also caused quick distancing by notable Democratic politicians to whom he has donated, some of whom returned Buck's donations and some who have not, according to Jasmyne Cannick. 

Buck is well-known as an organizer of Fur Free WeHo, a campaign to ban the sale of fur in West Hollywood, and for his support for the election in 2011 of WeHo City Councilmember John D’Amico, one of whose major campaign promises was to push through a ban. The City Council enacted that ban in September 2011. 

Buck has donated to federal, state and local Democratic political candidates, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and has been pictured with Governor Jerry Brown and Hillary Clinton, among others. He also served as a member of the steering committee of the Stonewall Democratic Club until the death of Gemmel Moore. 

In June 2011, Ed Buck testified for a law introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz (formerly a West Hollywood Councilman) that would ban the sale in LA city pet stores of commercially bred dogs, cats, rabbits and chickens. The ordinance required pet stores to offer only animals from city shelters for adoption by the public. 

Ed Buck at that time appeared as a dog breeder and member of the Southern California Golden Retriever Association and told the council he supported the measure "as a way to allow responsible breeders to operate." "This will put responsible breeders where they belong and so they do not have unfair competition," Buck opined, according to the L.A. Daily News.  

Then on June 9, in Paul Koretz' June Newsletter, Koretz praised Judie Mancuso, President, Social Compassion in Legislation; Ed Buck, Social Compassion in Legislation (both pictured); the Humane Society; Best Friends; LAAS GM Brenda Barnette; Jim Bickhart from the Mayor's office and "all the folks and organizations who have taken the lead on this vital concern." 

Buck, 62, is also well known as an organizer of Fur Free WeHo, a campaign to ban the sale of fur in West Hollywood. Gay Life LA reminds us, this led him to support the election in 2011 of WeHo City Councilmember John D’Amico, one of whose major campaign promises was to push through a ban.  

In "Making a List and Checking it Twice: Who Has Taken Money from Ed Buck?”, Cannick reports:

Animal PAC/Social Compassion in Legislation for Animals (Ed Buck is the group’s largest contributor.)

Amount Recv’d: $95,629.06

Date: 7/6/2011, 3/23/2012, 5/24/2012, 12/28/2012, 4/11/2013 4/27/2016, 5/20/2016

Amount Returned: $0

Statement Made: No


*A partial list of beneficiaries of Animal PAC include: Henry Stern for State Senate ($4,200), Anthony Portantino for Senate 2016 ($2,500), Jeffrey Prang for Assessor ($6,000), Mike Feuer for City Attorney 2013 ($1,300), John Perez for Assembly 2012 ($3,900), Bob Blumenfield for Assembly 2012 ($1,000), Betty Yee for State Controller 2014 ($250), John Duran for West Hollywood City Council ($3,200), Jeffrey Prang for West Hollywood City Council ($3,200). 

The Human Relations Commission’s Sept. 27 email asking for more information on Gemmel Moore's death was reportedly sent also to the West Hollywood City Council asking that the Council assist it in getting answers to the question it posed. It asked that the Council take up the request at its Oct. 1 meeting. It was not, however, on the Council’s public agenda nor was it on the agenda for its closed session on that date.

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.