Local News West Hollywood

Activists complain about lack of progress in drug deaths

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Activists are complaining about what they called a lack of progress into the investigation of a black man who was found dead in the apartment of prominent Democratic Party donor Ed Buck last month.

West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station acting Capt. William Moulder delivered a status report to the West Hollywood City Council Feb. 4 on the death of Ted Dean Jan. 7. Moulder said that homicide detectives had adequate resources to conduct a thorough investigation and, in fact, had already interviewed several witnesses. 

“Our investigators have been doing quite a few interviews,” Moulder said. “People are coming forward with some information and we are analyzing some evidence that’s been collected.” 

Moulder stated that the coroner’s office has completed the autopsy on Dean and is awaiting the toxicology reports.

But a statement released by social activist Jasmyne Cannick and attorney Nana Gyamfi prior to the West Hollywood City Council meeting, directly contradict Moulder’s report. Cannick and Gyamfi have been working closely with Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, and the coalition Justice 4 Gemmel and All of Ed Buck’s Victims to have the investigation into Moore’s death reopened.

Moore died of an overdose of methamphetamine in Buck’s apartment in July 2017, 18 months prior to Dean’ death.

The statement outlined the coalition’s concerns regarding the lack of progress on the Sheriff Department’s investigation and expressed concerns that no interviews have been conducted.

According to Cannick’s statement, sheriff homicide detectives reached out to Gyamfi shortly after Dean’s death, asking to interview witnesses about their dealings with Ed Buck. After obtaining immunity letters for the witnesses’ testimony, Gyamfi informed detectives that the witnesses were ready to proceed with the interviews. 

Weeks have passed and Gyamfi said she has yet to receive any requests for witness interviews from homicide detectives.

When asked by a reporter to comment on the conflicting statements regarding witness interviews, Moulder said he could not give specifics due to the ongoing investigation.

Cannick said the stalled investigation and lip service is all too familiar.

“Sheriff homicide detectives previously dismissed and discounted the credible statements of relevant witnesses who stepped out of their comfort zones to speak with law enforcement in their effort to support justice for Gemmel and all of Ed Buck’s victims,” Cannick said.

“We are hopeful that the Sheriff’s Department is not waiting for a third black man to die in Ed Buck’s apartment before they take these deaths and their investigation seriously.”

Gemmel Moore, 27, was found dead in Buck’s apartment in July 2017. According to autopsy reports, Moore’s death was caused by an overdose injection of methamphetamine.  Gay escorts claiming to have had encounters with Buck, 64, told authorities Buck intentionally preyed on financially vulnerable gay black men and paid them to allow him to inject them with higher and higher doses of methamphetamine. The county district attorney’s office declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence.

On Jan. 7, Timothy Dean, 55, was found dead in Buck’s apartment. Buck’s attorney, Seymour Armstead, said that Dean ingested a substance before arriving at his client’s apartment, where he subsequently lost consciousness and died. The cause of Dean’s death has not yet been released by the county coroner’s office.

Community activists held vigils in front of Buck apartment building and a rally in front of the district attorney’s office to demand a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding Dean’s death and a reinvestigation into Moore’s death.

Protesters say politics and race have played a major role in the investigations into the two deaths.

Buck is well known in West Hollywood political circles, having made a previously unsuccessful run for West Hollywood City Council in 2007. Records on Buck’s campaign contributions reveal that over the years, he has donated tens of thousands of dollars in support of political candidates, including County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Mayor Eric Garcetti, state Sen. Kevin DeLeon as well as contributions to nearly every member of the current West Hollywood City Council.

More than $10,000 was given to current Mayor John Duran’s re-election campaign.

“If you care about black lives, you would hand back the money of Ed Buck that was put towards your campaign.” said Eugene, a West Hollywood resident who only gave his first name when he spoke during the city council meeting. “I don’t understand how and why Ed Buck is still free after two people were murdered at his home.”

During his comments to the City Council, gay activist Jerome Kitchen chided council members on their response to the deaths of Moore and Dean and referenced recent accusations of sexual misconduct made against Duran by members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

“There is a lack of sympathy and empathy and justice for the community of color,” he said. “The mayor is in the pocket of the perp. The mayor is a perp himself.”