More than 30,000 signatures are expected to be submitted to the office of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey on Tuesday, urging the prosecution of Ed Buck for his alleged involvement in the deaths of two Black gay men in his home.
The nonprofit racial justice organization Color of Change is working with local organizers to urge that Buck be charged for the death of Gemmel Moore in July 2017 and Timothy Dean in January of this year. Both men seemed to have died of apparent overdoses of meth in Buck’s apartment. In Moore’s case, the district attorney’s office declined to file criminal charges against Buck after his death was initially considered an accident.
When additional information emerged that Moore may have been taken to Buck’s home and given drugs against his will, it was too late, says local journalist and advocate Jasmyne Cannick. A year and a half later, 55-year-old Dean’s body was found in Buck’s home under similar circumstances. Meanwhile Buck, a previous donor to numerous Democratic politicians, has not been charged for the deaths of either man.
Cannick told Out on Monday that local political figures, including Lacey, and law enforcement officers don’t have the political will to pursue prosecution for Buck. In fact, there has been an effort to get Democrats, who have received an estimaged $500,000 in donations from Buck over the years, to return the funds.
Protesters have been actively monitoring this case, with regular demonstrations around Buck’s home as well as petition drives to get Democratic politicians ranging from local politicos to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to return thousands of dollars in donations Buck has given to candidates and PACs over the years. Some politiicians did return the funds to different nonprofits, but Cannick said former congressional candidate Bryan Caforio and Rep. Karen Bass were the only two to return that money to organizations that work directly with Black gay and bisexual young men. Continuing their efforts, a group of protesters will deliver the thousands of signatures gathered from across the country and around the world to the DA’s office Tuesday. They will be accompanied by Moore’s mother, who was flown in from Texas to attend the event.
“I’m hoping that I’ll get to sit in the front of the court room and see Ed Buck arraigned for murder, but we’re a few steps away from there,” she said. On top of that, “the toxicology report has still not been released, and the autopsy has not been released. We still don’t know what Timothy Dean died of.”
Most recently, Buck’s attorneys maintain he was not involved in any wrongdoing, according to KTLA.
The deaths of these two men echo that of another case with which Cannick was involved, of Mitrice Richardson, a 24-year old Black lesbian who was taken into Los Angeles Police custody in 2009, and arrested for a small amount of marijuana. In fact, Cannick says, the amount was so small that California’s current laws on marijuana possession would not have led to her arrest. Richardson was released from the station which is located in a remote area of Los Angeles, in the middle of the night without her phone, money, car, or other possessions, and disappeared. Richardson’s body was found a year later, in Malibu Canyon, stripped of her clothing. Investigators ruled out murder, claiming she fell to her death while hiking in the middle of the night. Her death remains a mystery a decade later.
In all three cases, Cannick and others see where political forces and law enforcement failed to protect Black LGBTQ people and other marginalized folks. That’s why it’s important, Cannick said, to hold investigators accountable to getting justice for Moore and Dean.
“It’s been one year and 213 days since Gemmel Moore died,” she says, and Dean would have been turning 56 this week. “This is important — two people are dead and somebody is responsible for their death,” she said. “They died young, they died prematurely.”