A Dallas man who was viciously attacked in a Target parking lot earlier this year is now suing the retail giant, claiming negligence.
Derek Whitener and his attorney, Chris Hamilton, filed the lawsuit in Dallas County Thursday morning. They're seeking more than $1 million in damages.
On January 14, two teenage boys severely beat Whitener with a wooden stick as he was leaving the Target store at 2417 N. Haskell Avenue in Dallas. The attack put him in a coma for several days.
Speaking to the media Thursday, Hamilton said they hold Target liable for the attack because the store had several opportunities that night to prevent it from happening.
"There are a series of things here that put this almost entirely on Target's back," said Hamilton.
In the lawsuit, he states Whitener spotted his attackers as he was entering the store and reported them to Target security, telling them two young men in masks appeared to be following him -- an account backed up by Dallas police.
The suit claims the head of store security then told employees not to let Whitener call the police, insisting they would take care of it themselves.
Dallas Police have said Target security and an off-duty police officer working the shopping center approached the two teens, had a discussion with them, and told them to leave the property.
The suit claims Whitener finished his shopping, then asked security whether it was safe for him to leave the store. The head of security reportedly told him it was and that they had taken care of the young men.
But when Whitener left the store, the two teens approached him, and allegedly told him, "So, we heard you fear us. We are going to teach you what fear is." That's when they attacked him.
Hamilton insists Whitener saw no security or off-duty police officer in the parking lot at the time.
He said what makes this incident even more egregious is that this particular store has lengthy history of violent crimes occurring in its parking lot.
In the lawsuit, he documented 223 calls Dallas police responded to at the store between January 2014 and January 2017 -- including robbery, suspicious persons, criminal mischief, theft, burglary of a motor vehicle, injured persons and major violent disturbances.
"This isn't a situation of a random criminal act at an otherwise safe and properly operated location," said Hamilton. "This is a situation where we have an unacceptable recurring pattern of violence. But even more -- even if nothing like this had ever happened at this Target store before, even if there weren't hundreds of prior violent criminal incidents, when a customer comes in and says there are men in masks armed with sticks out in the parking lot and I feel threatened, a store has an obligation to be honest with the customer, to not interfere with the customer calling police and to provide basic protection."
Hamilton says Whitener is still suffering from his injuries, which include permanent brain damage, limited motor function in his right hand and speech impairment.
"What Derek wants to see happen is for Target to clean up their act, take responsibility for what happened, and take the steps to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Hamilton. "Rather than just continue to cover up the problem in a way that endangers the community."
Because the lawsuit was just filed, a spokesperson for Target tells NBC 5 the company has not yet seen it -- and therefore, cannot comment on the allegations.
Both teens have been arrested and are awaiting trial.