August 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Officials withhold cause of Secrets dancer’s death

The D.C. Medical Examiner’s office says it has determined the cause and manner of death of a 26-year-old gay man found dead in his apartment — but could not immediately release the information.

Beverly Fields, a spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s office, said city policy prevented the office from releasing the information until it delivered a copy of the death certificate to Mark Gower’s family.

She said the death certificate would be given to the family when funeral arrangements are made and the body is released. Those arrangements had not been made for Gower as of earlier this week, she said.

Police found Gower’s body in his apartment July 22 in the city’s Mount Pleasant section. The discovery came two weeks after the man’s friends and co-workers were unable to reach him.

People who knew Gower said he worked as an employee of the Sephora cosmetics store in Reston, Va., and was a part-time dancer at Secrets, a D.C. gay nightclub.

A police spokesperson said last week, before the Medical Examiner’s office made a determination on the cause of Gower’s death, that that there were no outward signs of foul play, such as injuries. But Lt. Nicholas Bruel said police could not rule out a homicide and that other possible causes could include accidental death or suicide.

Timothy White, one of Gower’s friends, said this week he was setting up a fund for people to donate money to help the family pay for a flight to D.C. to retrieve the body and arrange for transporting it to Oregon, where Gower’s family lives. White noted that directions to make contributions would be released soon.

A memorial service for Gower in Washington was scheduled to be held Friday, Aug. 6, starting at 6 p.m. at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters, 1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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