On early Monday morning, a black man named Timothy Dean was reportedly found dead in the West Hollywood home of Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic donor who came under investigation a year and a half ago when another black man, Gemmel Moore, died in his apartment. (Prosecutors declined to charge Buck in the first death after the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office found insufficient evidence against him, but are now reinvestigating the death.) While few details have been reported, Los Angeles activists have already organizing protests, demanding justice for the two men in front of Buck’s house; they believe that law enforcement failed to fully investigate Buck in 2017 because of his close ties to elected officials, as well as differences in race and class. Below, here’s everything we know so far.
What do we know happened?
According to the Los Angeles Times, Timothy Dean, 55, died in Buck’s apartment on Laurel Avenue sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. Paramedics attempted CPR on him, but he was declared dead on the scene. Per Buck’s attorney Seymour Amster, Dean was a fashion consultant and had been a friend of the Democratic donor for 25 years.
While Amster has claimed that Dean “ingested some type of substance” before arriving at Buck’s apartment, Dean’s roommate, Ottavio Taddei told the New York Times that while Dean “enjoyed a couple of drinks every now and then,” he was skeptical of Amter’s allegation.
“I’ve personally never seen him using drugs and never seen him in the apparent state of alteration caused by any form of drug,” Taddei said. “I consider this whole tragedy extremely controversial and I do hope the police department will dig into it.”
Though the official cause of death has not yet been reported, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Derrick Alfred admitted to KTLA that the resemblance this case bore to the first incident of a man dying in Buck’s apartment was eerie.
“It is suspicious that this has happened twice now,” Alfred said. Per ABC News, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office is currently performing an autopsy to determine official cause of death, while homicide detectives investigate simultaneously.
Who is Ed Buck?
Buck, 65, is a major political donor who gave $23,600 to various California races and causes through June 2018, per campaign-finance records. Most famously, he led a campaign to impeach Arizona Republican governor Evan Mecham in 1987.
What happened with the case involving Gemmel Moore?
In July 2017, Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old black man who worked as an escort, was found dead in Buck’s apartment from an accidental methamphetamine overdose, per a coroner’s report. At the time, Amster argued that Buck had nothing to do with the death, even though his apartment was reportedly covered in drug paraphernalia.
“This was a tragedy, but it’s no excuse to accuse an innocent man of acts he did not do,” Amster said.
But a notebook found in Moore’s possessions suggests otherwise. According to the Times, which reviewed the journal, Moore wrote about using crystal methamphetamine, saying that “Ed Buck is the one to thank.”
“He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth,” the entry read. While the death was deemed an accident, following news of the second man’s death, law enforcement officials said Monday that they plan on conducting another review of Moore’s case.
Activists in the area say Buck has a history of preying on young black man and pressuring them into partaking in dangerous drug use. Jasmyne Cannick, a progressive Democrat who’s running for delegate in the 53rd Assembly District and has worked with Moore’s family, told the Cut in an email, “For two years, I have worked to bring forth witness after witness who told authorities about Ed Buck and how he uses the internet to stalk and prey on young, Black gay men who are usually homeless, HIV-positive and often work as male escorts.” (The Cut reached out for comment from Amster, who has repeatedly denied these claims on Buck’s behalf; as of publication, he has not responded.)
Cannick places the blame on local law enforcement and government for what she sees as intentional inaction. “The death of another young Black man in the West Hollywood home of prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck is on the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney Jackie Lacey,” she said. “Had Buck been arrested and prosecuted in the death of Gemmel Moore, chances are he would not have been around to solicit and prey on vulnerable young Black gay men.”
How has the public responded?
On Monday evening, more than 100 people gathered outside of Buck’s West Hollywood to demand justice for Moore and the second man, as well as Buck’s arrest. There, Cannick proclaimed that the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office “have blood on their hands” for failing to hold Buck accountable.
“This was preventable,” she said. “We knew he hadn’t stopped, that it was only a matter of time before this happened again. And now it’s only a matter of time before it happens a third time if he’s not stopped.”