Candle light vigils in Dupont Circle on Sunday, Sept. 25, and at the University of Maryland’s main campus on Tuesday, Sept. 27, will give friends and associates of gay aerospace engineer and theater enthusiast Gaurav Gopalan time to reflect on his life and accomplishments, organizers of the two events said.
Gopalan was found dead on a sidewalk two blocks from where he lived in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood on Sept. 10. Earlier this week, the D.C. Medical Examiner said he died of blunt force trauma to the head and ruled the death a homicide.
Shiva Subbaraman, director of Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center and a friend of Gopalan’s, said members of the South Asian group Khush D.C. and Gopalan’s friends in the D.C. theater community joined other LGBT groups in organizing Sunday’s vigil, which is set to start at 7 p.m. in Dupont Circle.
Gopalan was a native of India and participated in Khush D.C. events, according to Khush member Rehan Rizvi.
Luke Jensen, director of the University of Maryland’s Office of LGBT Equity, said his office was working with friends and others who knew Gopalan through the university to sponsor a candle light vigil in Gopalan’s honor at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27. Jensen said the event was scheduled to take place at the Sundial on McKeldin Mall, a large open space near the campus’s main entrance on Route 1 in College Park.
Gopalan received his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland in 2004. At the time of his death he worked as an assistant research scientist at the university’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and operated a D.C. based engineering consulting firm.
“Many on campus may have known Dr. Gopalan from contexts outside of engineering,” Jensen said in an email announcing the campus vigil. “He participated with the Graduate Lambda Coalition while he was a graduate student. He also adored Shakespeare and asked to sit in on classes about Shakespeare taught by Professor Maynard Mack of the Department of English.”
The university’s engineering department is holding a private memorial for Gopalan on Oct. 2 in cooperation with Gopalan’s family for those who knew him personally. Jensen said people who knew Gopalan personally and would like to attend the private memorial should contact the engineering department at 301-405-3457.
D.C. police said a passerby found Gopalan unconscious about 5:20 a.m. on Sept. 10 on the 2600 block of 11thStreet, N.W. Police said he was dressed in women’s clothes and had no form of identification on him, although police said he remained in possession of money and jewelry.
Police said they had no immediate evidence that Gopalan was targeted for a hate crime but they could not rule that out and were continuing to pursue all avenues in their investigation.
His death followed what transgender activists have said have been a rash of violence against transgender women in the city this year. In July, Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman, was shot to death in an alley in Northeast D.C.
Police are asking anyone with information that could help in their investigation into Gaurav Gopalan’s murder should contact police at 202-727-9099 or the police crime solver’s line, where anonymous tips can be given, at 1-800-673-2777.
In an announcement, police said they offer a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for any homicide committed in the District of Columbia.