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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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Comings & Goings

Lane named senior counsel at Brady United



Thomas Patrick Lane

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Congratulations to Thomas Patrick Lane the new Senior Litigation Counsel and Director of Affirmative Litigation with Brady United. According to its website, Brady’s mission is, “To unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.”

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal at Brady said, “The whole Brady team is thrilled to welcome Tom’s skills as a trial lawyer and his leadership as a champion for justice and a voice for inclusivity and equal rights. Tom is one of the top litigators in the country, and has been a fighter his whole life who has proven himself undaunted by any challenge, including taking on the gun industry for its role in causing gun violence in America. Tom’s expertise and insights into complex litigation involving emerging technologies, such as 3-D printed guns, “smart” technology, and online commerce, will bolster our fight for industry-wide change by holding companies accountable and forcing reforms that will make all Americans safer.”

Upon accepting the position Lane said, “From my time as a prosecutor to private practice, I have seen the effects of gun violence and the importance of defending victims and survivors and upholding common-sense laws that keep our families and communities safe. I am excited to bring that background to Brady and to continue this important work nationwide.”

Prior to joining Brady, Lane was a partner in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Before that he was a partner in Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP. He is recognized as one of the country’s top intellectual property and new media lawyers. He tried the first Internet music case and the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor case before juries. He has also served as a senior trial attorney in the office of the New York Kings County District Attorney.

Lane represented the City of New York in litigation against major gun manufacturers in the early 2000s. LawDragon named him as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America.

Lane earned his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.; and his J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. He has created an endowed scholarship there for LGBTQ students to help law firms realize the importance of hiring diverse rosters of attorneys, and to honor the courage of his uncles Bernard Lane (an Army Ranger decorated with two Bronze Stars) and Richard Morrison (a recovered alcoholic who devoted his life to counseling others).

Both men were known for their toughness tendered by humor and both lived openly in loving relationships with same-sex partners in the 1970s. Lane is a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association. He directs all external legal matters for the Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video



Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Va. GOP governor nominee opposes transgender-inclusive youth sports

Glenn Youngkin made comment to Arlington voters in March



Glenn Youngkin (Photo via Twitter)


The Republican gubernatorial candidate to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

“Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports,” Glenn Youngkin said during a meeting with a group of voters in Arlington on March 25, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s just not fair.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to Youngkin’s campaign for comment.

Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, on Saturday defeated Pete Snyder, former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña and Octavia Johnson in the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention. Virginia Republicans nominated Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares as their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively.

The Democratic Party of Virginia will hold its primary on June 8. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to win the vote, and run against Youngkin in the general election.

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