Local activists dividedover decision to nameLeroy Thorpe to post
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.email@example.com
Gay activists had mixed views this weekover a decision by Mayor Vincent Gray toappoint a controversial civic leader who inpast years referred to gays as “faggots”to a mayoral advisory committee thatlooks at city programs to curtail juveniledelinquency.Gray last week named Leroy Thorpe,a licensed social worker and counselorwith the D.C. Department of YouthRehabilitation Services and a longtime civicactivist in the city’s Shaw neighborhood,to the mayor’s Juvenile Justice AdvisoryGroup. The unpaid advisory panel assiststhe mayor and DYRS, among other things,on how to use federal funds to strengthenthe city’s juvenile justice system.D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward2), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights,sent Gray a letter strongly recommendingThorpe for the appointment.Evans could not be immediatelyreached for comment.And Ron Collins, Gray’s gay directorof the Mayor’s Ofﬁce of Boards andCommissions, said he vetted Thorpe forthe appointment and recommendedthat the mayor name him to the advisorypanel. Collins said Thorpe’s backgroundand experience on juvenile justice issuesshowed him to be qualiﬁed for the post.“I’ve known Leroy Thorpe for a numberof years and I really don’t feel that he is abigot toward any community,” Collins toldthe Blade.Thorpe told the Blade in a phonemessage on Monday that he prefers notto discuss things he said in the past butsaid he’s changed his views and treats allpeople with respect.“These days, you know, I got older, gotwiser,” he said. “And I don’t act like I didbefore, back in the time when…I spokewithout thinking. Everybody deserves respectand I don’t care who or what you are.”Martin Moulton, president of theConvention Center CommunityAssociation, a Shaw-based group thathas long been at odds with Thorpe, saysThorpe’s “history of bigotry” makes himunsuitable for a mayoral appointment.In a series of e-mails sent to publicofﬁcials and gay activists, Moulton pointsto statements Thorpe has made about gayson at least two occasions over the past 20years. One took place in 1991, when Thorpeshouted through a bullhorn at a pollingstation on Election Day that gay City Councilcandidate Jim Zais was a “faggot” and Shawvoters should not support him.Zais, who died of AIDS in 1994, lost theelection to Evans by a close margin. At thetime, Evans and his supporters disavowedThorpe’s characterization of Zais, sayinghe wasn’t representing Evans or the Evanscampaign.Moulton noted that Thorpe severalyears ago called gay D.C. Council memberDavid Catania (I-At-Large) an anti-gayname during a City Council hearing.According to Moulton, Gray violated apromise he made to the Gay and LesbianActivists Alliance on a GLAA questionnaireduring last year’s mayoral election campaign,when Gray said he would “decline to honorindividuals or organizations that promoteany sort of bigotry.”
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Cause of death was‘impact head trauma’
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.firstname.lastname@example.org
The D.C. Medical Examiner disclosedon Tuesday that gay engineer GauravGopalan, who was found dead Sept. 10on a sidewalk in Columbia Heights at 5:20a.m., died of blunt force trauma to thehead and that the death has been ruleda homicide.News that Gopalan’s death was due toan act of violence came after D.C. policeinitially announced there were no obvioussigns of injuries to Gopalan’s body and thata ﬁnal determination on the death wouldhave to wait for results of toxicological tests.Gopalan, a native of India, was founddead on the 2600 block of 11th Street,N.W., in a location less than two blocksfrom where he lived. He was dressed inwomen’s clothes with some facial makeup,prompting police to initially describe himas a transgender woman.With no identiﬁcation on him, it tookpolice three days to track down his identityfollowing the release of a post mortem phototaken by the Medical Examiner’s ofﬁce.It could not be immediately determinedwhy the Medical Examiner’s ofﬁce didn’tdisclose last week its ﬁndings released todaythat Gopalan suffered a “subarachnoidhemorrhage,” or internal head bleeding,due to “blunt impact head trauma.”Beverly Fields, a spokesperson for theMedical Examiner’s Ofﬁce, said the latestﬁndings were based on the autopsyconducted last week.Bob Shaeffer, Gopalan’s partner, toldthe Blade Monday that he didn’t knowwhere Gopalan had been on the nightbefore his death but said police told himthey obtained video footage of Gopalannear the corner of Florida Avenue and UStreet, N.W. The gay nightclub Town andthe gay sports bar Nellie’s are located inthat area.Police last week said they had contactedthe management of several gay clubs inthe city to ask whether Gopalan had beenseen in the clubs in the hours prior to hisdeath. At a news conference last week,Homicide Branch Capt. Michael Farish saidrepresentatives of the clubs weren’t certainwhether Gopalan had visited the clubs.Gopalan received a doctorate degree inaeronautical engineering at the Universityof Maryland and later worked with theuniversity on research projects relatedto sound suppression of helicopter rotorblades, a technology deemed importantfor U.S. military applications.Ofﬁcials with the University of Maryland’sschool of engineering and D.C.’s SouthAsian LGBT group Khush D.C., to whichGopalan had ties, this week continued tomourn Gopalan’s death.He also served as president of theFred Schmitz Group, an aeronauticalengineering consulting ﬁrm, which heoperated out of the home that he andShaeffer shared in Columbia Heights.Rehan Rizvi, a member of Khush D.C.,said Gopalan attended a number of thegroup’s events during the past few years.Rizvi said Khush D.C. planned tocoordinate a possible memorial service forGopalan with the University of Maryland’sengineering school, which was expectedto host a memorial at the campus.People who knew Gopalan said he alsoserved as an assistant director and stagemanager for Shakespeare plays producedby a the WSC Avant Bard theater groupformerly known as the WashingtonShakespeare Company.The ruling of his death as a homicideis certain to further alarm LGBT activists.Gopalan’s death followed shootings orthe attempted shooting of at least ﬁvetransgender women since July. One of the women, Lashai Mclean, 23, was shotto death on July 20 on the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E.Police have said they have no evidenceso far to indicate any of the incidents arelinked to the same perpetrator.
02 • SEPTEMBER 23, 2011LOCAL NEWS
Gay engineer’s death ruled a homicide
’s decision to appoint acontroversial civic leader to a mayoral advisorycommittee has rankled some.
WASHINGTON BLADE FILE PHOTO BY MICHAEL KEY
Gray board appointee called gays ‘faggots’