On January 14, a popular player in Dallas' theater scene was brutally attacked, and the Dallas Police Department are seeking information on the suspects.
Derek Whitener, artistic director at the Firehouse Theatre and a longtime area costume designer, was assaulted in the parking lot at the CityPlace Target by two suspects who beat him in the head with a wooden rod. Whitener was taken to Baylor Medical Center, where he had surgery to have a hematoma removed, and is recovering in ICU.
Whitner was coming from a performance of the Firehouse production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. According to a police report, he arrived at Target and was walking toward the entrance when the suspects walked toward him. The suspects were then observed walking away after he made it to the front door. Inside, Whitener reported the individuals as suspicious to Target personnel. Meanwhile, the suspects remained near the front entrance.
Target security alerted an off-duty Dallas police officer. Both the security guard and the off-duty officer approached the suspects near the entrance. One suspect walked away, while the suspect with the wooden rod had a brief discussion with the off-duty officer and security guard. The suspects were asked to leave the property.
At around 11:05 pm, Whitener exited the Target after shopping. As he walked to his vehicle, he was approached by the suspects. They made a threatening statement, then beat him with the stick and fled on foot towards the street. A customer in the parking lot reported the incident to the off-duty officer.
Detectives were able to retrieve video surveillance, and have canvassed the area for additional video and witnesses. The police are now asking for the public's assistance in identifying the two suspects.
Suspect no. 1 is a black male between 18 and 20 years old, 5'9", and 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray jacket, black pants, black backpack, black gloves, gorilla mask, and armed with a 3-foot wooden dowel rod.
Suspect no. 2 is a black male between 18-20, 5'9", and 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black hoodie with white lettering, red/blue jeans, white Nike shoes, black backpack, and a gorilla mask.
If anyone has any information regarding this incident, they are encouraged to contact Detective Hubner in the Assaults Unit at 214-671-3639 or Crime Stoppers at 214-373-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction for this offense.
A GoFundMe page has been established to help with Whitener's medical expenses. In less than three days, more than $80,000 has been raised. Celebrity Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who originated Derek's Spelling Bee role on Broadway, has donated a generous amount and shared the campaign with his Facebook followers. Click here to make a donation.
Theatre Three recently announced it will host a one-night benefit concert on January 24 at 7:30 pm, with all donations going directly to Whitener's GoFundMe. Actor Calvin Scott Roberts is the organizer, and currently scheduled performers include Roberts, Janelle Lutz, Kimberly Billins-Oliver, Keith J. Warren, Kathryn Taylor Rose, Alexandra Cassens, and Ian Mead Moore.
Lindsey Wilson contributed to this story.