September 13, 2011 at 10:31 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. police identify man thought to be transgender victim
Gaurav Gopalan

Police identified the deceased man originally thought to be transgender, as Gaurav Gopalan. (Photo from Gopalan's personal website).

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

In a news release issued 5:41 p.m. Tuesday, police identified the male decedent as 35-year-old Gaurav Gopalan of Northwest Washington but provided no further details about him.

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

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

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.

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.

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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