Suspects are wanted for brutal beating in Target parking lot on Jan. 14.

This story was updated on Jan. 17 at 10 a.m.: 

Derek Whitener seemed aware something was wrong when two men, one carrying a large wooden rod, approached him in the Target parking lot on Haskell late Saturday night. Within hours, he would be fighting for his life with a fractured skull and bleeding brain.

Derek Whitener

Derek Whitener

According to police reports, the two suspects didn’t follow Whitener into the store, and instead could be seen on surveillance video waiting outside the business. Whitener was so nervous enough about the interaction, he alerted the store’s management, who sent a security guard to talk to the two men. The guard was joined by an off-duty Dallas Police officer. Once outside, one of the suspects wandered off but the man holding the large wooden rod spoke to the officer and both men were asked to leave the property.

Why the men weren’t forced to leave the premises as instructed remains unclear. But when Whitener exited the store with his groceries around 11:05 p.m., the suspects were waiting for him. They threatened Whitener before beating him with the wooden rod. Another customer alerted the off-duty officer, who rendered aid to the victim. Whitener was rushed to Baylor Medical Center with a critical head injury and required surgery the next day, although he is expected to recover. He remains in the ICU, according to a GoFundMe page set up by a friend to help offset the cost of medical bill and other expenses.

Police have some video footage of the suspects, but are currently searching for more. The two assailants are both described as black men ages 18-20 who were about 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. During the attack, both wore gorilla masks. Anyone with information should call Detective Hubner in the DPD Assaults Unit at 214.671.3639 or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 214.373.TIPS(8477).

The original post is below:

A man walking through the Target parking lot on Haskell was brutally beaten on Saturday, leaving him with a fractured skull and a bleeding brain. The Dallas Voice reports that one assailant wore a monkey mask, the other wore a ski mask when they attacked Derek Whitener, an area thespian and theater director who was playing the role of Leaf Coneybear in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Firehouse Theatre, where he worked as the education director.

He was severely beaten, leaving him with critical injuries that required surgery on Sunday. According to a GoFundMe page to help offset the cost of medical bills and living expenses,  “[The neurosurgeon] said the hematoma from Derek’s brain is basically gone but a large contusion causing brain swelling is affecting his speech and motor functions. They are hopeful and very optimistic this will subside and that his speech will improve.”

The Voice reports that nothing was stolen in the attack.

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