Gemmel Moore died in 2017 in the home of activist accused of forcibly injecting men with deadly doses of drugs
Ed Buck, a Los Angeles man accused of forcibly injecting black gay men with fatal doses of drugs, targeted his victims for years without facing consequences, authorities have said.
For the mother of one victim, it was clear how he got away with his crimes: LA law enforcement ignored evidence, rejected the stories of the black gay men who tried to speak up, and turned away families fighting for justice.
“I’m a grieving mother, but they treated us like criminals,” LaTisha Nixon, the mother of Gemmel Moore, told the Guardian on Wednesday. “I haven’t been able to recover.”
Buck, a 65-year-old political activist and Democratic donor, was arrested last week, with prosecutors saying he was a “violent sexual predator” who ran a drug den and had at least 11 victims. Authorities said he injected men with deadly doses of methamphetamine, including Moore, 26, who overdosed inside Buck’s West Hollywood apartment in July 2017.
If the Los Angeles sheriff’s department (LASD) and the LA county district attorney, Jackie Lacey, had taken Moore’s death seriously, and arrested and prosecuted him two years ago, Buck would not have been able to harm so many additional people, Nixon said.
“I didn’t ask for nothing special. I just wanted [Lacey] to do her job,” said Nixon, who lives in Texas and was in LA this week, meeting with black LGBT activists and lawyers who have investigated Buck for years and pushed for charges. “We had our proof. We gave her all of the evidence. I don’t know if she ignored it because it was black gay men, or because it was gay men, period. I got the runaround.”
Buck allegedly went after men who were struggling with homelessness and drug addiction, offering to pay them for sex and seeking to inject them. One victim told police he was known locally as “Doctor Kevorkian”.
Buck is accused of giving some men tranquilizers without their knowledge and drugging them while they were unconscious. Some said they woke up to discover they had been sexually assaulted. One victim said Buck threatened him with a power saw.
Timothy Dean, a second fatality, died of an overdose in Buck’s home in January 2019.
The arrest last week came after a third victim, a 37-year-old man identified as Joe Doe, overdosed non-fatally inside his West Hollywood home this month. In that case, Buck refused to render aid and thwarted the victim’s attempts to get help, forcing him to flee and call 911, police said.
The LA district attorney charged Buck with drug felonies related to that overdose, but the DA filed no charges in the deaths of Moore and Dean. In Moore’s case, federal prosecutors charged Buck with administering meth to a victim who died. Activists have advocated for murder charges.
“I wanted everybody to know what this man did to my child, so he couldn’t hurt anyone else’s kid or family member. I had to say something,” Nixon said, recounting her decision to speak publicly after her son’s death. “Timothy Dean’s death could’ve been prevented if they had listened to us. But they didn’t.”
‘They were not taken seriously’
Nixon said Moore was a jokester who loved to cook for others, especially chicken parmesan: “Gemmel had a lot of aspirations … He was adventurous. He was loving. He was caring. He was nurturing. He spoke his mind.”
She said her son told her about Buck in 2016, telling her “he was held in this man’s house for a few days and that he shot him up with something and he didn’t know what it was”. She urged him to report him to police, and he told her police wouldn’t help.
Jasmyne Cannick, an activist who has led the effort to get Buck arrested and conducted her own investigations into him, said that multiple victims tried to report Buck to the sheriff’s office and were “turned away”, adding: “Numerous other Joe Does were not taken seriously.”
“Because they were black gay men, the county didn’t care to listen to their stories. The county didn’t care to follow up,” said Hussain Turk, an attorney for Moore’s family.
The most recent overdose victim told reporters this week that he was homeless and trying to get his life back together. Advocates have been raising funds for him and other survivors and victims’ families and have argued that local authorities should be providing support to the victims and witnesses.
Nixon said there were numerous times officials mistreated her in the wake of her son’s death. The coroner’s office sent her a $300 bill for the cost of removing her son’s body from his home, she said: “Send it to Ed Buck. He killed my son. Why are you sending me the bill?”
She said the coroner also publicly released a report that failed to redact her home address, forcing her to move from her home: “I didn’t feel safe.” The DA’s office also turned her away when she showed up in person, she said.
A coroner’s office spokeswoman confirmed it bills for “transportation” and said the address was “public record”. A spokesman for Lacey said the DA’s office “is legally and ethically required and committed to only bring charges that have sufficient, admissible evidence” and that there was “insufficient evidence” to pursue homicide charges.
Buck’s lawyers did not respond to inquiries.
‘I need to see this through, then I can mourn’
Advocates gathered with Nixon at a West Hollywood auditorium on Wednesday and said the fight for justice was far from over.
Jerome Kitchen, a local activist, said people needed to stand up for the black LGBT community in LA: “There are a lot of Ed Bucks out here right in this community. They prey on us.”
He added: “White men have been given a free pass in society to do as they want … and inflict pain and hurt on minority communities. We are fighting back against that.”
Turk, the local attorney, said the problem of meth in the gay community had become a “public health epidemic” that was disproportionately affecting LGBT people of color.
Nixon said there were black gay men who thought “no one cares about them” and she wanted them to know there were people who were there for them: “You can never know the extent a mother would go for her child.”
She said she hadn’t had an opportunity to properly grieve for her son’s loss with the continuing fight to hold Buck accountable.
“I’m numb, to be honest. I just picture him here in California. I haven’t processed the fact that he’s dead. I need to see this through and then I can mourn,” Nixon said, adding: “When all the cameras go away, I have to deal with the fact that my child is not here. I can’t see him. I can’t talk to him. All I have left is memories. I’m dying on the inside. A piece of me died.”Follow Shannon Garcon: