September 15, 2011 | by Phil Reese
Trans community ‘in crisis’

A recent rash of shootings — and the mysterious death of a man dressed in women’s clothes — has the transgender community on edge, with at least one activist describing the situation as a “crisis.”

In the most recent incident, detectives with the D.C. police Homicide Branch have identified a man found dead early Saturday morning, Sept. 10, on the 2600 block of 11th Street, N.W. that investigators initially believed to be a transgender person.

Police on Tuesday identified the male decedent as 35-year-old Gaurav Gopalan of Northwest Washington but provided no further details about him. Gopalan worked as an aerospace engineer.

“The investigation is ongoing and the cause and manner of death are undetermined at this time,” police said in a news release.

The identification came one day after police released a photo of the then unidentified male taken by the city’s Medical Examiner’s office.

Police said he was dressed in women’s clothes, wearing some facial makeup, and carrying high heels at the time police arrived on the scene and found him unconscious on the sidewalk. A source familiar with the case said he was found in front of 2618 11th Street, N.W.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon that preliminary autopsy findings showed no obvious signs of injuries or trauma on the decedent. He said a final determination of whether the death was a homicide or due to natural causes would have to wait for completion of toxicological tests by the Medical Examiner.

Transgender activists who viewed the photo said they believed the person may have been a man dressed in drag, possibly a gay man, rather than someone interested in changing his gender from male to female.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Det. William Covington at 202-727-9600 or the police Command Information Center at 202-727-9009.

Gopalan’s personal website lists him as president of The Fred Schmitz Group, an aeronautical engineering company based in his home at 2725 13th St., N.W., which is less than two blocks from where his body was found.

According to the website, he received his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2004. Gopalan is listed as the company’s only employee. The company lists as its areas of expertise “aeronautical acoustics, runway-independent aircraft, air traffic management,” and “rotor dynamics & aerodynamics.”

The type of “rotor” technology Gopalan has worked on is believed to have been used to suppress the noise of helicopters similar to the ones used in the U.S. Navy Seals operation that led to the capture and death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this year.

The Blade was able to independently confirm that a Gaurav Gopalan indeed received a Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Maryland, College Park in aerospace engineering.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said police were in contact with the Embassy of Nepal to establish contact with Gopalan’s family members who live in the South Asian country.

Shiva Subbaraman, director of Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center, said she has known Gopalan for many years through mutual friends in the South Asian community.

“I am in shock at this,” she said.

In another case, D.C. police arrested a 20-year-old man on a charge of assault with intent to kill for the shooting on Monday of a transgender woman in the 2300 block of Savannah Street, S.E.

Police said Darryl Willard of Northeast Washington surrendered on Tuesday at First District Police Headquarters and was charged in connection with an arrest warrant obtained by police, who said the victim knew Willard.

The victim, whom police have not identified, suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the neck about 2 a.m. Monday at the Savannah Street location and showed up at the Seventh District Police Headquarters to report the incident, police said. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and was in stable condition.

The incident was the fourth reported shooting of a transgender person in D.C. since July. The latest case prompted police officials to call a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss this and other transgender-related cases.

Transgender activists Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who spoke at the news conference, said the latest shooting was among more than a dozen violent attacks against transgender women in D.C. this year.

“The transgender community is now in crisis,” Corado said.

That incident came after police arrested a suspect in a separate case on Sept. 10 in which the suspect, whom police have not identified, allegedly threatened three transgender women with a gun on the 4000 block of Minnesota Ave., S.E. None of the victims were injured. Police listed the incident as an anti-transgender hate crime.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area where the unidentified person’s body was found, said his office is closely monitoring the case. Graham, who is gay, said he is troubled over the large number of crimes against transgender women in the city in recent months.

Capt. Edward Delgado, director of the police Special Liaison Division, was the first to disclose the shooting of the trans woman on Savannah Street, S.E., on Monday in an early morning e-mail to LGBT activists.

“This morning a member of the transgender community walked into the Seventh District Station to report that she sustained a gunshot wound to the neck,” said Delgado, whose division oversees the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

“The female was transported to a local hospital and is in stable condition. The Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit responded to the scene to aid the detectives in their investigation in hope to bring this case to closure,” he said.

The incident came less than two months after 23-year-old Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman, was shot to death shortly before 5 a.m. on July 20 on the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E.

According to police, a transgender woman who was with Mclean at the time of the shooting told investigators two men approached Mclean and asked her a question. Before Mclean could answer them one of the two men fatally shot Mclean with a semiautomatic handgun, police said. The case remains unsolved.

Eleven days later, on July 31, an unidentified male suspect fired a handgun at a transgender woman along the 6200 block of Dix Street, N.E., just one block from where Mclean was shot. The shot missed hitting the victim, police said.

In a statement following the second shooting, police said they were looking into the possibility of a “potential emerging pattern” between the two incidents. No suspects have been identified in the case.

At Monday’s news conference, D.C. Police Homicide Branch Capt. Michael Farish said police chose not to release a composite drawing of the unknown suspect who shot Mclean because the witness was unable to provide enough details about the suspect’s appearance.

In a separate incident on Aug. 26, an off-duty D.C. police officer was arrested on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly firing his approved off-duty service revolver at three transgender women and two male friends who were sitting in a car in Northwest Washington.

Two of the transgender women and one of the male friends suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds in the incident. The victims told police the incident began when words were exchanged between one of the male friends and 21-year veteran D.C. police Officer Kenneth Furr after Furr allegedly propositioned one of the trans women for sex inside a CVS drugstore about 4:40 a.m. that morning.

Transgender activists who know the victims said one of the transgender women involved in the case said Furr became angry when she turned down his request that the two have a sexual encounter.

During Monday’s police news conference, Budd and Corado said they were pleased with the response to the latest cases by police officials but expressed concern that at least some rank and file officers continue to show a bias against members of the LGBT community, especially against transgender women.

 

14 Comments
  • It’s a tragedy that the “trans” community is in such a state of crisis. However, in my heart of hearts I believe that if those who enter the trans world exercised better judgment and forethought about their activities, lives, and the choices they make then we wouldn’t have a crisis. Yes, I think the cause of a lot of the recent bad events lies at the feet of the trans community themselves. And, if that’s called blaming the victim, then so be it. Bad decisions = bad consequences.

    • Do you also believe that rape victims “bring it on themselves” when they go out at night, or dress attractively? These transsexual women were not breaking any laws; they just happened to be out and about when they were attacked. How is that “bringing it on themselves”?

    • Two of the shootings were the result of Transwomen refusing to have sex with men when it was demanded of them. Is that what you mean by “bad decisions”? Do you hold other women to the same standard?

    • You’re disgusting, what if people killed you because you weren’t trans? Is it your fault? The ignorance is insane!

    • I think you are all missing his point! Take off the goggles, he is simply questioning the choices of where and when these incidents occurred. I don’t see where any of them happened at 3PM in fromnt of the Whole Foods! Get a clue. It’s not really blaming, it’s questioning personal accountability and responsibility.

  • MPD, including GLLU, has a serious credibility problem when it doesn’t effectively understand, nor enforce criminal codes already on the books. It is a good thing for all LGBT residents that Budd and Corado are pressing MPD on a number of basic law enforcement questions.

  • If by “bad decisions” you mean deciding to live our lives as ourselves, instead of pretending to be something we aren’t (we aren’t men…) or perhaps killing ourselves…

    I’m sorry, but it is duty of the public, to GROW UP! Stop hating someone just cause they are different. Stop thinking it is your duty to “clean up the gene pool” unless you want to get bleached out yourselves!

    The truth beyond truths is that it is VERY rarely the fault of the transwoman (and the occasional transman) that these incidents happen. The ONLY situation that is even CLOSE to “excusable” is if one of us purposefully holds back on telling someone we are in a relationship with, for QUITE a while (more than a month IMO), or beyond intimacy (anything sexual, but including lip2lip kisses too). But even then, you should still feel the obligation to be the “better man/woman” and show your grown up side.

    Don’t get violent, just state your disinterest, and part ways. Face it, EVERYONE has their own surprises, chalk it up to experience and MOVE ON!

    If you can’t handle the possibility of a surprise, you shouldn’t be dating. Go back to JILL and leave us humans alone! (look at your left hand, palm up, and proceed to giggle…)

    Crysta, Proud Transwoman, soon to be engaged to her loving girlfriend of about a year.

    • If you can’t handle the possibility of being attacked, then don’t be roaming the streets “possibly” soliciting at all hours of the morning in sketchy neighborhoods.

      • Women, whether trans or not shouldn’t have to live their lives in fear of walking down the street alone. Men are the attackers, they are the ones to be blamed. Not the woman who wants to exercise her freedom to walk down the street whenever she wants like everyone else. Society perpetuates this idea of blaming the victims for crimes when in reality we should be looking to PUNISH the people who are committing these crimes, not victim blaming. Its no wonder why rapes and assaults go unreported.

    • You are awesome Crysta! Keep your head high, the world needs more people like you!

      • Perhaps we do, needing you to do volunteer work at a hospital or homeless shelter instead of “excercising your rights” to walk the streets at all hours trying to find yourself and be who you are.

  • Where is Cookie Buffet? Why is she not sorting this out?

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