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Trans community ‘in crisis’

Activists alarmed after rash of shootings, mysterious death

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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.

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Baltimore

Baltimore Pride event disrupted by possible chemical agent, causing panic and injuries

Incident caused a stampede

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This year’s Pride Parade and Festival was expected to attract 100,000 people. (Photo by Kaitlin Newman/the Baltimore Banner)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV and BRENNA SMITH | A possible chemical agent was released in front of the main stage at the Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party on Saturday night, causing a stampede.

The incident occurred around 7 p.m. and police did not release the chemical agent, according to a spokesperson. The main stage for the event was located near North Avenue and Charles Street.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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District of Columbia

Accused drug dealer charged with fentanyl distribution leading to deaths of two D.C. gay men

June 13 indictment links previously arrested suspect to deaths

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(Bigstock photo)

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has announced that federal prosecutors on June 13 obtained an indictment against one of two D.C. brothers previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution that now charges him with “distributing cocaine and fentanyl” on Dec. 26, 2023, that resulted in the deaths of D.C. gay men Brandon Roman and Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

In a June 13 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jevaughn ‘Ledo’ Mark, 32, is charged in a new “secondary superseding indictment” linked to the Roman and Barletta deaths. It says he and his brother, Angelo Mark, 30, “previously were charged on April 9 in a 17-count superseding indictment for participating in a conspiracy that distributed large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine in the metropolitan area.”

The press release says Jevaughn Mark is currently being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between Jan. 10, 2024, and March 13, 2024. According to the press release, the charges were based on six illegal drug purchases from Jevaughn Mark by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undercover D.C. police officers.

Court records show that Angelo Mark was charged in a criminal complaint on March 22 with multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and is also being held without bond.

D.C. police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services reports show that Roman, 38, a prominent D.C. attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, and Barletta, 28, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a 911 call and arrived at Barletta’s home on Dec. 27. The reports show that Roman was declared deceased at the scene and Barletta was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he died on Dec. 29.

A police spokesperson told the Washington  Blade in February that police were investigating the Roman and Barletta deaths, but investigators had to wait for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s official determination of the cause and manner of death before the investigation could fully proceed.

Both men were patrons at D.C. gay bars and their passing prompted many in the LGBTQ community to call for stepped up prevention services related to drug overdose cases, even though the cause and manner of death for the two men was not officially determined until early April.

In April, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed that the cause of death for both men was an accidental consumption of several drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect. The Medical Examiner’s office said Barletta’s death was linked to the consumption of at least four different drugs and Roman’s death was caused by the “combined toxic effect” of six drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office disclosed that cocaine and fentanyl were among the drugs found in the bodies of both men. And for both men, the manner of death was listed as “Accident/Intoxication.”

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police spokesperson Tom Lynch said the police investigation into the deaths remained open but said, “There are no updates on the investigation that we are ready to release to the public.”

But the Medical Examiner’s findings prompted Johnny Bailey, the community outreach coordinator for HIPS D.C., an LGBTQ supportive organization that provides services and support for those who use recreational drugs, to say he strongly believed that Barletta and Roman did not intentionally consume some of the drugs found in their system.

“I’m going to say I do believe this was a poisoning,” Bailey told the Blade. “I think it is unfair to call some things an overdose because an overdose is when you do too much of a drug and you die from that drug,” he said. “This is like if you have a few glasses of wine every night and someone puts arsenic in your wine, no one would be like, ‘oh, they drank themselves to death.’ They were poisoned. And that’s what I think is happening here,” he said in referring to Barletta and Roman.

In announcing the new charges against Jevaughn Mark that link him to Barletta and Roman’s deaths, the U.S. Attorney’s press release discloses that he supplied fentanyl in the drugs he sold unknowingly to the undercover DEA and D.C. police officers when one of the officers, posing as a drug buyer, did not ask for fentanyl.

“In each instance, the DEA/MPD agents requested to buy ‘Special K’ or Ketamine from Jevaughn Mark,” the press release says. “In every instance, Jevaughn Mark supplied a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine,” it says.

The release says that after the earlier indictment against Jevaughn Mark was issued, law enforcement agents conducted a search of his Southeast D.C. home and “recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.” It says on that same day authorities executed another search for a second residence linked to Jevaughn Mark, where they located a bedroom used by his brother Angelo Mark.

“From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, law enforcement recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash,” the press release says, adding, “Based on the evidence, both brothers were indicted in the first superseding indictment.” 

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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