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Gay engineer’s death ruled a homicide

Cause of death was ‘impact head trauma’



The D.C. Medical Examiner disclosed on Tuesday that gay engineer Gaurav Gopalan, who was found dead Sept. 10 on a sidewalk in Columbia Heights at 5:20 a.m., died of blunt force trauma to the head and that the death has been ruled a homicide.

News that Gopalan’s death was due to an act of violence came after D.C. police initially announced there were no obvious signs of injuries on Gopalan’s body and that a final determination on the death would have to wait for results of toxicological tests.

Gopalan, a native of India, was found dead on the 2600 block of 11th Street, N.W. in a location less than two blocks from where he lived. He was dressed in women’s clothes with some facial makeup, prompting police to initially describe him as a transgender woman.

With no identification on him, it took police three days to track down his identity following the release of a post mortem photo taken by the Medical Examiner’s office.

It could not be immediately determined why the Medical Examiner’s office didn’t disclose last week its findings released today that Gopalan suffered a “subarachnoid hemorrhage,” or internal head bleeding, due to “blunt impact head trauma.”

Beverly Fields, a spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said the latest findings were based on the autopsy conducted last week.

Bob Shaeffer, Gopalan’s partner, told the Blade Monday that he didn’t know where Gopalan had been on the night before his death but said police told him they obtained video footage of Gopalan near the corner of Florida Avenue and U Street, N.W. The gay nightclub Town and the gay sports bar Nellie’s are located in that area.

Police last week said they had contacted the management of several gay clubs in the city to ask whether Gopalan had been seen in the clubs in the hours prior to his death. At a news conference last week, Homicide Branch Capt. Michael Farish said representatives of the clubs weren’t certain whether Gopalan had visited the clubs.

Gopalan received a doctorate degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Maryland and later worked with the university on research projects related to sound suppression of helicopter rotor blades, a technology deemed important for U.S. military applications.

Officials with the University of Maryland’s school of engineering and D.C.’s South Asian LGBT group Khush D.C., to which Gopalan had ties, this week continued to mourn Gopalan’s death.

He also served as president of the Fred Schmitz Group, an aeronautical engineering consulting firm, which he operated out of the home that he and Shaeffer shared in Columbia Heights.

Rehan Rizvi, a member of Khush D.C., said Gopalan attended a number of the group’s events during the past few years.

Rizvi said Khush D.C. planned to coordinate a possible memorial service for Gopalan with the University of Maryland’s engineering school, which was expected to host a memorial at the campus.

People who knew Gopalan said he also served as an assistant director and stage manager for Shakespeare plays produced by a the WSC Avant Bard theater group formerly known as the Washington Shakespeare Company.

The ruling of his death as a homicide is certain to further alarm LGBT activists. Gopalan’s death followed shootings and an attempted shooting of at least five transgender women since July. One of the women, Lashai Mclean, 23, was shot to death on July 20th on the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E.

Police have said they have no evidence so far to indicate any of the incidents are linked to the same perpetrator.

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area where Gopalan lived and died, said he is closely monitoring the police investigation.

“Now our determination must be to get the killer because somebody killed this fine young man who had such a great life and was loved by so many people,” he said. “We have got to get this killer”



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Rehoboth Beach

Vandals target 2 Rehoboth Beach LGBTQ-owned businesses

Staff discovers graffiti on walls, doors



Vandals targeted the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach on Monday. (Photo courtesy Purple Parrot)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and the Purple Parrot — two LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants in Rehoboth Beach — discovered that their establishments had been vandalized on Monday, according to a series of posts to the Purple Parrot’s Facebook page made by Hugh Fuller, the restaurant’s owner.

The vandal, whose identity remains unknown, painted on the walls and carved graffiti into the mirrors of the Purple Parrot’s bathroom, and painted graffiti on the front door of Freddie’s Beach Bar, the posts recounted. The establishments have since filed police reports with the Rehoboth Police Department.

Tony Rivenbark, a manager at Freddie’s, said that a staff member first noticed the vandalism around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, and that it was dry to the touch, leading restaurant management to believe it was painted early in the day. Upon discovering the graffiti, restaurant staff reported it to local police and were told that other nearby locations had similarly been vandalized, he said.

Between its Rehoboth and Arlington, Va. locations, Rivenbark has worked at the establishment for almost two decades, and added that this was the first instance of vandalism at the Rehoboth venue, which has been open for less than one year. He noted that Freddie’s management is currently reviewing security footage for further information, and is likely to soon install additional security cameras.

At the establishment’s Arlington, Va., location, “we’ve had some minor spray painting done, we’ve had some rocks thrown at windows,” he recounted. “Mostly I have attributed it to drunken antics, not so much hate. Hopefully that’s the case here as well.”

Rivenbark added that Freddie’s staff remains positive despite the circumstances. “It doesn’t seem like a huge issue. It’s something we’ll probably just paint over tomorrow,” Rivenbark said. “I’d much rather it be some kid that’s got a new little airbrush … than it being somebody that’s targeting LGBT businesses.”

The Rehoboth Beach Police Department declined to comment or to confirm details of the reports filed.

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District of Columbia

Pride Run returns after two-year hiatus

1,500 participants to join 10th annual event on June 10



The Pride Run 5K is back after COVID hiatus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a two-year pandemic hiatus that saw the Pride Run go mostly virtual, the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K is elated to once again welcome nearly 1,500 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators back to the Historic Congressional Cemetery for their Tenth Anniversary Race on Friday, June 10.

As an official Capital Pride Partner Event, the Pride Run 5K kicks off Capital Pride weekend with a bang. Well perhaps more of a “On your mark, get set, GO!” 

Join us as we run, walk, skip, shantay, and sashay on a course that starts near the cemetery’s “Gay Corner” where many LGBTQ rights activists, such as Leonard Matlovich, are interred. The race then winds along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to finish where you started.  

Gates open at 5 p.m. for packet pickup with the race beginning at 7 p.m. The post-race party includes beer and hard seltzer provided by DC Brau along with a DJ playing music until 9 p.m. Be sure to check out the return of the DCFR dance troupe performing to a hyped-up crowd. 

Race proceeds benefit the following local LGBTQ and youth-supporting organizations via the Pride Run Foundation: Ainsley’s Angels (National Capital Region), Casa Ruby, Team DC Student-Athlete Scholarship, SMYAL, The Wanda Alston Foundation, The Blade Foundation, and Teens Run DC. You can help support these amazing charities by registering for the race or donate directly at

A special thanks to the presenting sponsors, Capital One Café, Choice Hotels, KNEAD Hospitality + Design, Shake Shack, and Wegmans Food Market to the premier sponsors DC Brau, Pacers Running, and Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, and our elite sponsors, AHF Healthcare Centers, Avalon Bay Communities, Casey Trees, Endorphin Fitness, and Starbucks, and of course our special partner the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Last, but not least, a big thank you to all individual donors who contribute via the race website directly to our incredible charity partners. Together, we proudly celebrate who we are in a festive, safe, and inclusive event.

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District of Columbia

Mattachine Society of D.C. donates documents to William & Mary

New LGBTQ archive established at Swem Library



Charles Francis, anti-gay purge, Mattachine Society, gay news, Washington Blade
‘Our motto ‘Archive Activism’ brings us to this decision to donate all of our collection to William and Mary,’ said Charles Francis. (Photo courtesy Francis)

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the group that collects historic documents related to the federal government’s discrimination against and persecution of LGBTQ people in past years, announced this week that it is donating all its documents to a newly created Archive of American LGBTQ Political and Legal History at the College of William & Mary.

The Williamsburg, Va., based college announced last week that its new LGBTQ archive is being established at its Swem Library in memory of the renowned gay historian John Boswell, who was a 1969 Bachelor of Arts graduate in history at the College of William & Mary.

“There are many fabulous collections of LGBTQ historical materials in libraries across the country, but this archive will have a unique focus on the political and legal architecture of the movement,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of University Libraries at William and Mary.

“Our motto ‘Archive Activism’ brings us to this decision to donate all of our collection to William and Mary, for the benefit of historians, researchers, and students nationwide,” said Charles Francis, co-founder of the reestablished Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The group was originally founded by D.C. LGBTQ rights pioneer Frank Kameny in the early 1960s as D.C.’s first politically active LGBTQ organization.

“This exciting new archive will collect materials that illuminate the history of LGBTQ Americans’ struggle to secure their rights through the political process and legal systems of the nation,” according to LGBTQ rights advocate and former William & Mary Rector Jeff Trammell. 

Trammell is donating to the new archive material collected from his tenure as the first openly gay board chair of a major public university, a statement released by William & Mary says. It says Trammell’s donation is the second donation after the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which made the first of what is expected to be many more LGBTQ-related documents to be donated to the new archive.

The Mattachine donation includes “original, declassified documents obtained by meticulous research into sources such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, numerous presidential library archives, and public and university libraries, to name just a few, according to attorney Pate Felts, the other Mattachine co-founder.

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