Democratic Party megadonor Ed Buck faces new questions this week after Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives opened an investigation into the second death of a man -- identified by a medical examiner as 55-year-old Timothy Dean -- at Buck's home in less than two years, and a third man came forward with an account of what he described as his drug-fueled interactions with the well-connected Californian.
Deputies in West Hollywood responded early Monday morning to a report of a person not breathing at Buck's home, and county firefighters pronounced the man dead. The cause of the death will be determined by the coroner, according to Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department.
But, critics are questioning whether Buck's race — both men found dead were black — or if his wealth or political ties to the Democratic Party influenced an initial investigation of the 64-year-old who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to a slew of liberal causes and candidates over the years, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and a who's who of top California politicians.
“He definitely has not been cooperative, as his attorney says. He refused to answer any questions when I tried speaking with him,” Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Investigator Quilmes Rodriguez told Fox News via email Wednesday night.
Officials said the investigation of the second death will include a review of Gemmel Moore's death in 2017. After a slow-moving investigation that went on for months, Buck was not charged.
“On July 27, 2017 there was a death investigation of a male adult, Gemmel Moore, who was determined to have overdosed at the same location. Mr. Edward Buck was present during both incidents,” said a recent statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Buck gave Moore drugs or is responsible for his death in a document dated July 26 obtained by Fox News. An autopsy report said Moore died of a methamphetamine overdose.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, The Daily Mail published an account by Jermaine Gagnon, a 28-year-old who claimed he narrowly escaped death in Buck’s apartment. Gagnon claimed to have met Buck online in April 2018 and said the Democratic megadonor flew him from Minnesota to Los Angeles.
“He was quite open about being very generous to the black community,” Gagnon said. “I’m his type, and pretty much half of the black community is his type — vulnerable, depressed. If you’re in a depressive state, that’s the energy that feeds him.”
Gagnon claims Buck injected him with crystal methamphetamine at his sex toy-filled apartment.
“He took my phone. I was so scared. I felt death walked into my soul. I called my mother. I said, ‘I feel like he’s going to kill me, I think I’m going to die," he told The Daily Mail.
Following the discovery of the body Monday morning at Buck's apartment, his attorney, Seymour Amster, said his client has not been arrested and is cooperating with investigators.
“From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” Amster said. “The person came over intoxicated.”
Amster, however, did not return Fox News' emails and phone calls about the Gagnon report.
Buck's apartment was the site of a massive protest Monday night.
“Arrest Ed Buck, prosecute Ed Buck, and then a jury needs to convict Ed Buck,” activist Jasmyne Cannick said to a crowd during the demonstration. “This man has had two dead bodies in his house, and he is still in his house.”
“This man is a danger to our community," said another demonstrator.
Buck’s support of political causes began in 1987 in Arizona. That year, The New York Times described Buck, then a registered Republican, as a “33-year-old millionaire entrepreneur who retired from the insurance service business a year ago” to become politically active.
He took the reins of a recall drive that year against then-Gov. Evan Mecham, a Republican who'd drawn widespread publicity for canceling a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for state workers.
During the campaign, it was disclosed that Buck had been arrested twice. He was accused of public indecency in an adult bookstore in 1983, and in 1987 faced a charge of obtaining a drug without a proper prescription. The public indecency charge was reduced to disturbing the peace, and Buck paid a $26 fine. Prosecution in the drug case was suspended after he agreed to counseling.
Although Buck has given more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and groups over the years, a number of politicians returned those donations after Fox News’ reporting on Moore’s death. Buck’s own congressman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who received $2,700 in 2016, previously told Fox News that he donated the full amount to an LGBT nonprofit. A campaign spokesperson for Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema told Fox last year that she donated $18,800 she’d received from Buck to the UMOM New Day Center.
In addition, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told Fox News that he returned a $1,400 donation from Buck last year. The first elected official to return a donation from Buck was California Rep. Karen Bass, who gave her $250 donation to Moore’s family well over a year ago. Rep. Ted Lieu of California recently told the Associated Press that he was “deeply disturbed” by the disclosure of a second death at Buck’s home and was giving Buck’s donations to charity.
Still, not every politician repudiated Buck. West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman previously told Fox News that he had “no intention” of returning a $500 donation he received from Buck. Cannick, on her website, has a list of political figures and organizations that have received donations from him and whether or not they have been returned.
Buck is a past candidate for the West Hollywood City Council and is well known in LGBTQ political circles. In response to the latest death, the Los Angeles LGBT Center called for a full investigation. “While much is still to be learned, it appears this tragedy is linked to substance use. LGBT people and other marginalized groups are at elevated risk for impacts that result from the current epidemic uses of opioids, methamphetamine, and other dangerous drugs,” the center said.
“It says a lot about the dark underbelly of gay culture and West Hollywood,” Steve Martin, a former West Hollywood city councilman who is gay, told The Los Angeles Times. “We always are slapping ourselves on the back about how open-minded and diverse we are, and frankly the residents know that’s not always the case. When an incident like this comes up, it makes us confront a lot of issues that are really uncomfortable.”
Fox News' Christopher Carbone and the Associated Press contributed to this report.