Opinion: Six Months After His Death, the Silence about Gemmel Moore Has Become Deafening

Gemmel “Juelz” Moore (left) and Ed Buck (Facebook)

A moment of silence.

That’s what usually is requested when one wants to memorialize someone who has died.

But as of today, it has been six months of silence since Gemmel Moore, a young black man struggling with issues of poverty and addiction, was found dead of a drug overdose in the apartment of Ed Buck, a relatively affluent, older and prominent West Hollywood Democratic Party activist. An activist who is gay and white.

So what happened? Apparently God only knows. If the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department or the L.A. County District Attorney know, they aren’t saying. Our moment of silence drags on.

After discovering Moore in Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment on July 27, the L.A. County Coroner’s Office ruled that his death was an accident attributed to an overdose of methamphetamine. Meth is an incredibly dangerous and addictive drug. Given the destruction it has caused in the gay community, it could be considered the modern day equivalent of the HIV epidemic of the early 1980s. Sadly, while groups like ACT-UP organized back then to fight HIV, today most gay men are reluctant to talk about meth or condemn it. But that’s a subject for another day.

It took an outcry from Moore’s family and friends and pressure from L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin and WeHo Councilmember Lindsey Horvath to get the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to announce in August that its Homicide Division would look into Moore’s death. Since then detectives reportedly have interviewed a number of young black men who claim Buck paid them to party with him.

Buck isn’t talking. But his lawyer has said his 63-year-old client was just a caring man who didn’t in any way exploit the 26-year-old Moore. In November, the Los Angeles Times got access to the full coroner’s report, which painted a more disturbing picture of Buck’s supposed beneficence.

When paramedics walked into Buck’s living room, a porn film was playing. Nearby was a cabinet filled with sex toys, syringes and what the paramedics described as “suspected methamphetamine.” In the middle of all that, Moore lay naked and dead on a mattress.

The outcry by Moore’s family and friends apparently hasn’t halted Buck’s beneficence. On Sept. 11, he seemed to have created a new profile on a gay sex site where he met a young black man in South Los Angeles who he paid to have transported to his Laurel Avenue  apartment. WEHOville published screenshots of text messages between a cellphone with Buck’s telephone number and that young man, which were furnished by Jasmyne Cannick, a communications strategist working with Moore’s family. The messages invited the young man to Buck’s apartment building on Laurel  and expressed an interest in “blowing clouds,” a euphemism for smoking meth, and other behavior.

Earlier this month, a neighbor in Buck’s apartment building texted WEHOville to say that yet another young black man was headed into Buck’s apartment, apparently seeking the older man’s support.

As I wrote in an editorial last month, it would be difficult if not impossible to substantiate allegations by Moore’s friends and family that Ed Buck killed Moore by injecting him with meth or even that he provided the drug to him (both allegations denied by Buck’s lawyer). After all, no witnesses were present.

But what we do know is that a very vulnerable young man, a young black man without a regular place to sleep and without much money, a young black man who admitted to working as an escort for the money, is dead. And we know that he is not the only young black man who Ed Buck has paid to stop by his Laurel Avenue apartment.

So, the question is why hasn’t the Los Angeles County District Attorney charged Buck with possession of methamphetamine, which the coroner’s report appears to document? Why hasn’t the West Hollywood City Council, several of whose members have been criticized for taking campaign contributions from Buck, more aggressively pushed for an answer to what continues to be going on?

For some who wish the Ed Buck mess would go away, the silence may be golden. However, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

  1. Follow the Money.
    Is there a never ending source?
    Where it came from, how is passed through Buck and where it went?
    We know the answer to 1/3 of this riddle.
    6 degrees of separation

    Meanwhile is the the miscreant in exile in a self imposed cage?

  2. As Todd stated, this case probably would be hard to prove.

    But I think we deserve a solid answer as to why Buck wasn’t charged with possession.

    Maybe someone should ask this question at the next City Council meeting. It might have been asked before, there.

  3. Todd’s questions are the same ones being asked by the victim’s family. I don’t wish criminal charges on anyone, but it does seem that the City has abdicated an opportunity to have an informed discussion on meth use and remind folks about available assistance via services funded by West Hollywood. I agree with SE that such a discussion does not need to involve mockery or shaming. Unfortunately the attorney, Seymour Amster, has made several unfortunate statements which have not been helpful and have only inflamed the matter. But in the back of my mind I have always wondered if the community response to this unfortunate tragedy would have been different if the victim had been blonde and blue eyed.

    1. @SteveMartin – I believe you are right on point. If it were a white victim, the community response would be, “We are under siege from this terrible plight and must help those suffering.” Instead, I am hearing “Meth users are depraved and their deaths shouldn’t be a surprise since they chose to use the drug.” Shame on our community. This issue may be less urgent and deadly than the AIDS epidemic, but look what the crack epidemic eventually did to African-American communities in the 1980s who had no social services or programs to assist those suffering. My greatest concern is that we cackle and point at people who actually go out in public suffering from meth abuse (and make snarky, judgmental remarks on this site) while hundreds of others are hiding out in their homes ashamed to seek help because they don’t want to be publicly humiliated.

  4. Meth is a subject for another day?? That is the whole subject here that you just graze over. You and others have twisted the narrative into a class and racial injustice. Plain and simple meth ruined two lives here, without it you wouldn’t have your other perceived injustices. Meth is the topic that has been silent for 6 months and that’s what we all should be talking about. It is destroying this city one person at a time and it does not discriminate.

  5. I’m sure you meant:
    …..”text messages between a cellphone with Buck’s telephone number and that young man, which were furnished by Jasmyne Cannick, a communications strategist working with MOORE’S family.”

  6. Beyond possession of an illegal substance, I’m not really seeing that Buck is guilty of anything other than an egregious lack of moral character. I wish we could arrest him for that, but in the meantime I have concerns about the attempts to publicly shame him. If he is “run out of town”, who becomes the next target? Gemmel Moore’s death is a terrible tragedy, but it’s also a wake-up cry for our community regarding how the crystal meth epidemic is not just robbing people of their lives, it robs them of their moral compass. Time and again, we shame people who use the drug, pushing them further into the shadows, when they need to be protected against opportunistic predators like Ed Buck.

    I don’t have a solution, but I do know that as a community we have turned our back on meth addicts in ways that perpetuate the problem. Perhaps showing meth addicts the same compassion we show toward our brothers and sisters struggling with alcoholism or HIV – rather than disdain and mockery – would be a good place to start. None of us are immune, ever.

  7. There isn’t going to be a prosecution because (1) the DA doesn’t really want to wade into this mess and (2) it’s nearly impossible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Buck was responsible. We can all guess at what happened given past behavior and the revelations from other young black men Buck had sex with, but that’s not enough to meet the legal burden of proof in this specific case. The victim would be put on trial and juries don’t have a lot of sympathy for prostitutes or sex workers, even less for ones that are drug addicts and even less for ones of color.

    What I don’t understand is why there wasn’t an investigation at the site when the body was being carried out. Shouldn’t the sheriffs have been there to investigate what happened and, at the very least, seize the stuff that appeared to be meth, test it, and arrest Buck for possession if it was, in fact, crystal meth? That opportunity is long gone and that is on the Sheriff Dept.

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