On January 14th, Derek Whitener was attacked by two men in front of a Target in Dallas, Texas. Beaten severely, Whitener was left with a catastrophic head injury. Complications arose when bleeding and swelling of the brain forced emergency surgery on the 15th. He is expected to make a full recovery. Currently, his head injury continues to affect his speech patterns and physical coordination.
However, questions remain as to the level of responsibility Target security employees have in this incident. Whitener and an off-duty Dallas police officer reported the two suspects to Target security as suspicious individuals. They were then requested to leave the premises.
Afterwards, Target security allowed Whitener to leave the store. He was un-escorted. Security camera footage released by the store shows the two suspects approaching Whitener, and then attacking him with a blunt weapon. Other footage recovered by the Dallas Police Department showed the suspects looking through the windows of parked cars and attempting to gain access to them.
Target security accused of negligence
The attorney for Derek Whitener states that Target security allowed his client to “walk into an ambush”, despite having been informed of two dangerous individuals on their property. Camera footage clearly shows one of the suspects with the weapon that would eventually send Whitener to the hospital.
The catastrophic head injury eventually left Whitener unable to even speak with his attorney. Though surgery has spared him a worse outcome, it is very well possible that the entire incident could have been avoided by more proactive measures. His attorney believes that Target’s actions were not in the best interests of Whitener, and may have even directly contributed to the attack.
Police have directed their attentions to Target staff and possible witnesses. Target has released a statement of their customer and employee safety focus.
Catastrophic head injury consequences
Modern medicine and surgical practices have allowed people to survive and recover from life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, recovery from brain trauma is not always complete. Worse still, even cases where full recovery does happen, it can take anywhere between week, months, and years. Brain damage is a condition that can have long-lasting, life altering consequences.
We have seen it in athletes in all contact sports. Defensive and offensive linesmen on pro football teams suffering from concussions despite protective equipment. Boxers across all weight classes suffering in their later years from the repeated blows to the head they took in their prime. In the case of Derek Whitener’s catastrophic head injury, he could spend the rest of his life suffering speech impediments, or even physical disability.
To Whitener, a stage actor and director, either would be a heavy burden. Whitener’s friends say even the partial loss of speech and coordination would be “horrifying” to the quick-witted 33-year-old.
This incident highlights the potential liability issues store management and staff face for crimes that occur on their property. Whether or not Target did everything within reason to guarantee the safety of Whitener will be decided in court.