Man found dead in Columbia Heights identified

September 13, 2011

A person found dead in Northwest Washington over the weekend was identified Tuesday as a 35-year-old aeronautical engineer who had been active in the theater.

Gaurav Gopalan held a PhD from the University of Maryland and was a researcher there at the Clark School of Engineering. A friend said he had also been involved with the former Washington Shakespeare Company, with credits as a director and stage manager.

He “adored Shakespeare” and began with the company, now WSC Avant Bard, as a volunteer, said Christopher Henley, the group’s artistic director.

Gopalan’s body was found Saturday morning in Columbia Heights by a passerby in the 2600 block of 11th Street NW with no significant visible trauma. Although he lived a few blocks away on 13th Street NW, he remained unidentified for three days. Police released a post-mortem photograph Monday to aid in learning his name.

D.C. police identified him late Tuesday as Gaurav Gopolan, 35, but the spelling of the last name conflicted with that obtained from public records and interviews with Henley.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said Tuesday night that no determination had been made of the cause or circumstances of death.

Gopalan attended college in India. Police said they notified his relatives through the embassy of Nepal.

In 2004, Gopalan submitted his PhD thesis at Maryland, titled “Quasi-static Acoustic Mapping of Helicopter Blade Vortex Interaction Noise.” It was dedicated to his family and included an acknowledgement to “this great country, the United States of America.”

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