Gaurav Gopalan died of natural causes, autopsy indicates

Gaurav Gopalan, whose death rocked the DC theater community earlier this week, probably died of natural causes, his longtime partner told DCTS.

Bob Shaeffer, who lived with Gopalan and their two cats and two dogs in Columbia Heights, has reviewed an autopsy report which concluded that Gopalan suffered massive hemorrhaging in the brain, probably caused by an embolism. The autopsy contradicts earlier reports, published elsewhere, that indicated that Gopalan might have been the victim of a hate crime. Gopalan was wearing women’s clothes when he was found unconscious on a street in Columbia Heights.

Shaeffer, however, notes that police have kept the file open and are still investigating. “Gaurav’s family calls from Nepal every day, hoping for any final word,” he says. “I have to explain that things move slowly here.”

The two met at a theatre, during intermission, five years ago. “We were having a smoke break.  It was love at first sight.” The first time he came to my house for dinner, I served fifteen kinds of cheese,” Shaeffer recalled. “As he tried each one, he said ‘I love this one – it’s my favorite.’ He had the heart of a little boy.” They moved in together a few months later.

“I am heartbroken,” he said. “We shared a deep, undying love.”

Gopalan, an aeronautical engineer, was celebrated in the DC theater community for his perceptive intellect, boundless enthusiasm and generous heart. His unexpected death at thirty-five provoked a powerful wave of grief and love from colleagues and admirers.

Shaeffer said that Christopher Henley, Artistic Director of WSC Avant Bard will be arranging a memorial service for the theatre community “in a month or so.” A separate one for family will be held later.

Tribute to Gaurav Gopalan 

Tim Treanor About Tim Treanor

Tim Treanor is a senior writer for DC Theatre Scene. He is a 2011 Fellow of the National Critics Institute and has written over 600 reviews for DCTS. His novel, "Capital City," with Lee Hurwitz, is scheduled for publication by Astor + Blue in November of 2016. He lives in a log home in the woods of Southern Maryland with his dear bride, DCTS Editor Lorraine Treanor. For more Tim Treanor, go to


  1. Only met him once, a few years ago.
    He was, in just that one brief meeting, kind, merry, funny, helpful, modest, smart and competent. In a word: graceful.
    “Undying love,” Mr. Shaeffer said. No doubt.

  2. Sweta Basnet says:

    We are deeply shocked to learn about his sudden death. I am related to him from his mom’s side. We met when we were kids. They were visiting Nepal on a holiday break. Thats the only memory i have of him though we hear about him on a daily basis through family. He was loved by everyone. I was hoping to meet him when i found out he lives in DC as i live in the surrounding area. We as a family are going through very hard time like rest of his loved ones. It is good to hear how much he was loved and admired.  bBhaui (As he is fondly known as in the family) dada you will be truly missed. RIP. <3

  3. Srinivasan Raju says:

    I am based in Hyderabad, India and related to him through his father. I was dismayed to learn of Gaurav’s death. I saw him as a boy of 12 years in Delhi and after that I did not have the occasion, though I was very eager to meet him. I knew him to be a winsome and lively student who was brilliant in studies and I used to keep myself informed of his progress in life.  His untimely death is a cruel blow to me and others associated with him.



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