When authorities in Los Angeles found Timothy Dean dead in the apartment of Ed Buck, a Democratic activist and campaign donor, early Monday morning, Jasmyne Cannick was not surprised. Just six months ago, Cannick had posted a warning on Twitter that something like this might happen.
“If another young, Black gay man overdoses or worse dies at Democratic donor Ed Buck’s apartment it’s going to be the fault of the sheriff’s dept and L.A. District Atty for not stopping him when they had the opportunity to,” Cannick wrote on Twitter in late July.
In July 2017, Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old black man, died from a methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s apartment. Shortly afterward, Cannick followed a tip from a colleague and reached out to Moore’s friends and family, who had discovered a journal among the possessions returned with Moore’s body. They were disturbed by what they said they found: Moore’s journal said that Buck got him hooked on meth and had drugged him against his will.
Since Moore’s death, Cannick has collected a trove of information in an attempt to make the case that Ed Buck is a “predator” who preys on down-on-their-luck black men by by inviting them to his apartment and suggesting they try methamphetamine injections, or “slamming.”
Cannick conducted interviews with first-hand sources: men who said they went to Buck’s apartment for paid sex and drugs, several of whom told her that Buck offered them more money for the chance to administer an injection of crystal methamphetamine, the most dangerous way to take a dangerous drug. All of her reports are published on her personal website.
Cannick also published journal entries from Gemmel Moore in which he writes that Buck gave him his first meth injections and got him addicted. Cannick published photographs and videos taken by the men who said they were taken inside Buck’s apartment that corroborate key details from the initial death report and contemporaneous journals: a rolling red toolbox filled with sex toys and drug paraphernalia, a sportswear fetish, and an aversion to sexual intercourse.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed Thursday that homicide detectives are currently investigating Timothy Dean's death. On Friday, the L.A. District Attorney's office declined to comment "due to the pending investigation."
Earlier this week, Seymour Amster, Buck's attorney, told NBC News in what appeared to be a prepared statement that his client was not in custody and hadn't been charged in connection with the death of Timothy Dean, whom he said was a "longtime friend" of Buck's who had asked to come over."
"Ed was reluctant, but the friend was insistent,” Amster claimed. A short time later, Dean "began exhibiting bizarre behavior," which prompted Buck to call 911, Amster said.
NBC News’ follow-up calls and texts to Amster over a span of four days were not returned.
Now, over a year after Cannick first started to investigate Moore’s death and warn authorities that Buck is a “predator,” friends and family members of the deceased, along with LGBTQ and black activists in L.A. and beyond, are speaking out and asking why authorities did not more aggressively investigate Moore’s fatal drug overdose in Buck’s home.
While neither an autopsy nor a toxicology report has been released in Dean’s case, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office ruled Moore’s death an accidental overdose of crystal methamphetamine. The coroner's report noted a puncture wound on each of Moore’s elbows when his body was found naked on a mattress in the center of Buck’s living room.
“Our stories aren’t told and our lives are seen as expendable. It’s very easy to write off someone who dies of a drug overdose who was working as a sex worker, but Gemmel was as much a part of our community as the many other young men like him,” said Cannick, who like both Moore and Dean is black and gay. “It may not be pretty, but white gay men taking advantage of young Black men in our community is not unusual—it’s just not talked about in mainstream America.”
FOLLOWING A PATTERN
Cannick, 41, an award-winning social commentator and former Congressional press secretary, started to investigate Buck just a few weeks after Moore’s death. Cannick said a tip from a colleague led her to look into the prominent political activist.
LaTisha Nixon, Moore’s mother, told Cannick “she had a lot of concerns and was not getting a lot of answers from the authorities,” Cannick recalled. Cannick then spoke to friends of Moore, several of whom told similar tales: that Buck uses gay dating websites to invite black men to his apartment to use or try methamphetamines.
“We started to figure out there was this pattern and practice where he solicited and went after young, gay, black men — usually men who were homeless, HIV-positive, who were in need of food or money,” Cannick said, citing in-person interviews she conducted and published with people who say they met Buck for sex and drugs.
“Not all of these men were on drugs when they met Ed Buck,” Cannick added, “but Ed Buck got them on drugs.”
Fox 11 published a news report soon after Moore’s death that showed security camera footage of a second black man attempting to buzz into Buck’s apartment while police were still in the process of removing Moore’s body from the scene. Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, told Fox 11 at the time that Buck and Moore were “good friends” and claimed Buck is a kind man who reaches out to troubled youth who are often homeless.
Shortly after authorities ruled Moore’s death an accidental overdose, Cannick published several pages of a journal that was recovered by the coroner along with Moore’s belongings, in which Moore wrote: “I ended up back at Buck house again and got manipulated into slamming again — I even went to the point where I was forced to doing 4 within a 2 day period.”
Less than a month after Cannick and Moore’s family released pages of his journal in early August 2017, authorities opened a homicide investigation into Buck that was then closed without charges in July 2018.
In addition to Moore’s journal, Cannick published a detailed interview with “Blake,” another man who said he knew Ed Buck over four years, the same period Buck knew Moore. Blake and Buck, according to Cannick — who published Blake's chat logs, photos, and interviews on her website — smoked meth together often and eventually, during a period of homelessness, Blake let Buck pay him $500 to inject him with meth. Neither Buck nor his lawyer has ever publicly addressed Blake's claims.
Cannick said Lindsey Horvath was the only West Hollywood council member that lent unqualified support to her efforts to further probe Moore's death. Horvath, who stressed she has never accepted campaign contributions from Buck, told NBC News she found the Buck case “deeply disturbing” and suggested that power and race may have played a role in the investigation.
“I think the question is worth asking: If roles were reversed, would different choices have been made throughout the investigative process and would have an arrest have been made?” Horvath said.
Ashlee Marie Preston, a transgender activist and former board member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Los Angeles, said she and Ed Buck “were friends temporarily” during her time on the board. Preston later worked to eject Buck from the club, where he had been a lifetime member.
During a mountain retreat for the Stonewall Democratic Club prior to Moore’s death, Prestonsaid Buck joined her for fresh air on the porch of a cabin. “Then he pulled out his cell phone, and he was like, ‘He’s so hot,’ and I was like, ‘Who?,’ and he showed me his phone, and there was a black man sitting in a dark room, and the only light in the room was the light from the lighter, and he was smoking methamphetamine.”
This disturbing experience, coupled with Moore’s subsequent death, led Preston to push for Buck to be removed from the Stonewall Democratic Club. The club of LGBTQ Democrats issued a statement Wednesday saying it “asked Mr. Buck to resign his membership and donated $500 toward Gemmel’s funeral expenses.”
Stonewall Democratic Club President Lester Aponte confirmed Preston’s role in helping the club formulate its response and Buck’s removal.
“There's a larger story there that people aren't looking at, Preston said. “It’s really about money, power, chemsex culture, and raceplay, and it’s this underground thing that many people aren’t talking about, and essentially it’s murder rebranded.” “He’s forcibly giving people lethal injections of drugs in exchange for money,” she claimed.
‘PREDATORY AND RACIST BEHAVIOR’
At a community meeting about Gemmel Moore’s death in 2017, Moore’s former roommate Samuel Lloyd said Buck “went out there searching for other men that were struggling and were on the streets and had no money.”
“Gemmel was scared,” Lloyd added. “He came and he laid in my arms, and he cried. He was scared, he was scared that this man was going to hurt him.”
Jerome Kitchen, a close family friend of Moore’s, said another death of a black man in Buck’s apartment has jolted the community.
“Our community didn’t give Gemmel as much attention as they’re giving now, because they didn’t know how to judge the situation,” Kitchen told NBC News. “But surely they do now.”
Nana Gyamfi, the attorney for LaTisha Nixon, was unequivocal about what Moore’s family wants: “We want Ed Buck to be stopped, and to prevent anyone else from being killed or harmed by Ed Buck and his dangerous, predatory and racist behavior.”
Some LGBTQ activist expressed hope that the new Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, might pursue the case with more vigor than the previous sheriff.
“The fact is two black men have died at Mr. Buck’s home in less than two years,” the Los Angeles LGBT Center said in a statement. “We urge Sheriff Villanueva to keep the public fully informed as LGBT people have a considerable and urgent interest in a case that is so clearly linked to the health and safety of our community.”
The Stonewall Democratic Club also called for authorities to “step up” when it comes to violence against LGBTQ people of color.
“Foul play is apparent — two dead bodies, both black, both gay,” the club added. “The evidence against Ed Buck is sickening and grotesque.”
Several Democrats have returned donations from Buck, including U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, and former state Senator Kevin de Leon.
Jasmyne Cannick and LaTisha Nixon will take part in a candlelight vigil for Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean on Friday, January 11 at 7 p.m. in front of Ed Buck’s West Hollywood apartment.