After two gay, black men were found dead inside the California home of a white, high profile Democratic donor 18 months apart, nobody expected the passings to escape the attention of America’s warring political tribes.
But what actually happened was even less likely: the deaths of Gemmel Moore, 26, and Timothy Dean, 55, helped to create informal alliances forged among political operators who are usually at opposite ends of nearly every issue, united under a single battle cry to “Arrest Ed Buck,” demanding he be prosecuted for murder.
Conservative social media influencers, for instance, saw an easy opportunity to scapegoat an individual tied to influential Democrats. Progressive organizers found an opening to vilify law enforcement, advancing Black Lives Matter-inspired electoral efforts to oust Los Angeles County’s district attorney and fundamentally transform its sheriff’s department.
And now, the public’s perception of the facts remain wildly distorted to fit different agendas which are nowhere close to each other in purpose.
Last week, Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Buck and L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey – a longtime foe of local activists. Black Lives Matter leaders have scrutinized Lacey’s record of opposing progressive criminal justice reform policies during her tenure.
Nixon’s lawsuit echoes unsubstantiated claims and speculation that has been repeated by agenda-driven opinion-shapers on both ends of the political spectrum. In the court filing, she goes so far as to allege that Buck, 65, is a drug dealer who administered the lethal dose of crystal methamphetamine that killed her son, who was a sex worker, on July 27, 2017. The document goes on to contend that the D.A.’s Office “refused to prosecute Mr. Buck because he is white, and because Mr. Moore was Black,” and “because he is a white man who has donated generously and consistently to elected members of Los Angeles County.”
Lacey, who is a black woman up for re-election next year, received $100 from Buck in 2012. Her campaign consultants told FOX News that she “does not know Mr. Buck,” and said she returned that contribution more than a year ago.
Still, the “Justice 4 Gemmel” advocacy group working with Nixon and her legal team insists Lacey violated Moore’s civil rights in a “race-based refusal to prosecute Ed Buck, which ultimately resulted in the January 7, 2019 death of Timothy Dean under almost identical circumstances that should have been prevented.” However, the results of Dean’s autopsy have been put on a “security hold” during the investigation and have not yet been revealed.
Prosecutors announced last summer that the “admissible evidence” from the investigation into Moore’s death was “insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Buck was responsible.
While Lacey’s office remained unconvinced that the matter was a criminal one, the glare of publicity that followed the second death sparked a renewed investigation into the circumstances of Moore’s fatal overdose, which is ongoing.
“The investigation will be driven by facts and evidence, nothing more,” said L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, has accused his client’s critics of wanting a “race war” and sensationalizing both deaths. In January, he told the Los Angeles Times: “Some people who all of a sudden have media attention are trying to divide the races.”
Ms. Nixon is co-represented by a pair of politically activist litigators, Nana Gyamfi and Hussain Turk, both of whom are driven by a philosophy which maintains that America was built on white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist hegemony which inherently oppresses people of color and other ostracized groups.
Gyamfi is also the personal attorney of Jasmyne Cannick, a popular L.A. political and communications strategist who often collaborates with groups like Black Lives Matter. Cannick developed a relationship with Nixon shortly after her son died in Buck’s rent-controlled, two-bedroom West Hollywood apartment. Cannick launched the “Justice 4 Gemmel” drive and began writing what have become highly-cited news reports on her personal website, which shaped the narrative promoted by most media outlets, conservatives and progressives today. She published pages of a journal that authorities said was found among Moore’s possessions in which he wrote about Buck purportedly injecting him with meth. Other black sex workers used her platform to make similar allegations.
Despite Cannick’s well-known status as an effective public relations professional and political tactician, journalists covering this story often identify her as an investigative reporter or a writer without referencing her primary vocation. Cannick has lambasted detectives for conducting a “sham investigation,” while media have ignored her conflicts of interest and ties to black nationalists seeking sweeping reforms to L.A.’s criminal justice system.
Cannick was the campaign director for the first phase of Reform L.A. Jails and Community Reinvestment Initiative. The countywide voter referendum, which has qualified for the presidential primary ballot next March, targets the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department – the same policing agency responsible for investigating the deaths at Buck home. The ballot measure would give a civilian oversight panel - which includes Black Lives Matter allies - subpoena powers over the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, which also operates the world’s largest jail system. Cannick had partnered with Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who serves as the proposal’s campaign chair.
To help pass her initiative, Cullors recently joined Real Justice Political Action Committee, which was co-founded by Shaun King – a nationally known activist affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. She leads the PAC’s criminal justice reform work, which has prioritized her upcoming voter referendum and replacing D.A. Lacey “with a reform-minded district attorney.”
While Cannick and Nixon’s legal team keep the pressure on prosecutors to charge Buck with a crime, Black Lives Matter’s L.A. chapter has drawn attention to Lacey’s unwillingness to prosecute police who have engaged in officer-involved shootings.
The activist group has demonstrated in front of Lacey’s house, organized weekly protests outside of her office, and vowed to “disrupt her wherever she goes” as she begins re-election campaign efforts.
Black Lives Matter members joined Cannick, Nixon and her attorneys, and other supporters last week in delivering a petition with 30,000 signatures to Lacey’s office, demanding authorities “immediately investigate and prosecute” Buck.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Department is not rushing to a legal judgment, reaffirming that detectives are still investigating the deaths of both Moore and Dean, and the findings have not been presented to the district attorney’s office for review. According to a recent report by WEHOville, detectives have traveled “as far away as New York City to interview young black men who claimed that Buck paid to fly to his apartment for erotic encounters.”
As authorities continue to conduct what the Sheriff has described as an “exhaustive” investigation, calls to immediately “Arrest Ed Buck” are in step with the hopes of progressive campaigns that seek to overhaul the criminal justice system in L.A. County, regardless of the evidence ultimately presented to warrant criminal filings against him, or lack thereof.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.