The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is reviewing the overdose death of Gemmel Moore, a year after the 26-year-old male escort was found dead in the West Hollywood apartment of Democratic Party donor Ed Buck. Sheriff’s homicide detectives presented their findings to prosecutors on July 10 after a lengthy investigation but neither the detectives nor the DA’s office would elaborate on the case.
“It remains under review,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s spokesperson Greg Risling noted in an email to the Los Angeles Times, without elaborating on whether investigators had recommended criminal charges. Risling reiterated his statement to the Los Angeles Blade.
Moore’s July 2017 death was initially ruled an accidental overdose by LA County Sheriff’s investigators and Dr. Jonathan Lucas, LA County’s Medical Examiner-Coroner. Neither agency found evidence to suggest the death suspicious, they told media outlets, including the Los Angeles Blade.
But in August 2017, after activists and Moore’s mother expressed grave concerns whether the fatal shot of drugs was self-administered, LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell ordered homicide investigators to launch a new investigation.
“When we became aware of the concern by the family, we had Homicide [Bureau] take at look at it,” McDonnell said in an exclusive Sept 2017 interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “We felt it was our obligation to look into those issues.”
Included in the investigation were notes that Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment was littered with drug paraphernalia, and entries in a journal found with Moore at the time of his death detailed Moore’s drug usage, referenced in the coroner’s report.
“Ed Buck is the one to thank,” Moore appears to have written. “He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth,” The Times reported after reviewing pages of that journal, in which Moore purportedly wrote about using crystal methamphetamine.
Another dynamic at play, according to activists and Moore’s mother, is the disparity of privilege. Moore was a Black, homeless, sex worker. Buck, 63, is a white, longtime political donor and one-time West Hollywood City Council candidate known in LA/West Hollywood’s LGBTQ political circles.
The Times reported that Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon of Texas, had questioned whether Buck’s ties to elected officials and differences in race and class influenced the initial investigation. Moore had flown from Houston to Los Angeles the day he died, according to coroner’s investigators. His mother has told The Times that Buck bought his airplane ticket.
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, told The Times that the coroner’s office determined that Moore’s death was an accident.
“This was a tragedy, but it’s no excuse to accuse an innocent man of acts he did not do,” Amster said. If authorities had a case, he added, “I think an arrest warrant probably would’ve gone out a long time ago.”
It’s up to DA Lacey now.
Reporting by The Los Angeles Times and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade