For many people, Ed Buck’s Tuesday night arrest was their first introduction to the prominent Democratic donor and “LBGT activist.” It was also their first introduction to not one, not two, but three men who overdosed on crystal methamphetamine in his West Hollywood apartment. In two cases, the overdoses were fatal -- and many people close to those deceased allege that Buck facilitated them. The third man who overdosed escaped alive, and is the first to have successfully brought criminal proceedings to Buck’s door.
It’s not wholly surprising that Ed Buck is only now becoming a household name, or that the crimes he has repeatedly been accused of have flown under the radar for years: Buck’s alleged victims were Black men who used drugs and were known to engage in sex work, or sex with other men. Though non-mainstream news outlets identified Buck’s pattern over two years ago and have continued to follow up with in-depth reporting, he’s evaded serious scrutiny until now, allegedly by leveraging his influence to target marginalized people.
26-year-old Gemmel Moore, was found dead in Buck’s apartment in July 2017. Less than two years later, 55-year-old Timothy Dean was found dead in Buck’s apartment in January 2019. After police failed to file criminal charges in either death, Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, filed a lawsuit against Buck in February 2019. It “alleges wrongful death, sexual battery, hate violence, drug dealer liability, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and two violations of civil rights,” according to NBC Los Angeles.
And now, a week after an anonymous man survived a Sept. 11 overdose in Buck’s apartment, Buck has finally been arrested and charged with “operating a drug house” and giving meth to the survivor, aka “Joe Doe.”
Activists, WeHo community members, the loved ones who mourned Moore and Dean, and a handful of journalists have been talking about Ed Buck since Moore’s death was classified as an accidental overdose. Local reporters highlighted the pattern early, and the news site WeHo Times broke the story all the way back in 2017, writing that its research “reveal[ed] a pattern that depicts a well heeled politico named Ed Buck as a man with a history of allegations that he pays young, good-looking African American men anywhere from $500-$3500 to inject, smoke and otherwise ingest potentially fatal doses of crystal methamphetamine and GHB during allegedly paid sexual encounters.” The Root’s Michael Harriot has followed the Ed Buck story since Moore’s death, and Buck was the subject of a handful of articles in the Los Angeles Times following Dean’s death.
Journalist, radio host, and activist Jasmyne Cannick spoke with more of Buck’s surviving victims, unpacked the circumstances around Dean’s death after Buck accused the dead man of trying to choke him with a noose, and published excerpts from Moore’s diary, where he chronicled the way Buck introduced him to crystal meth and documented his fear for his life before he died.
Cannick echoed this in a commentary piece for The Advocate: “Like I’ve been saying all along, Ed Buck has never stopped the same behavior that cost Gemmel and Timothy Dean their lives. All this time Ed Buck has been operating with the impunity he knows he has as a white man,” she wrote. “I do not believe that if the community hadn’t kept calling for justice for Gemmel and Timothy that we’d be here today.”
Cases like Buck’s highlight how easily people in power are able to devalue certain lives, especially those that lack their whiteness and affluence. If Buck is held accountable in court, it would validate all the time and energy that the victims’ communities have invested in speaking up. However, it still leaves the questions of why they had to work so hard in the first place, and whether things might have gone differently if the victims had the “right” racial background or line of work, unanswered.