Days later, victim is in coma

A UNC Charlotte graduate student who was beaten, robbed and left on an uptown street after partying last week has been in a coma for more than five days after the attack, police said.

Narayan Dhakal, who also teaches math at UNCC, wasn't identified until Monday. He was in critical condition Wednesday at Carolinas Medical Center after the attack early Friday along a typically safe strip in uptown.

Dhakal and friends went to Bar Charlotte and then to Forum late Thursday night. Around 1:15 a.m. Friday, he told his companions he was going home.

Police aren't sure what happened as Dhakal walked alone. Det. Mike Harris said he may have been confused about how to get back to his car, which was parked near the Dunhill Hotel at Sixth and Tryon streets.

Dhakal was found unconscious, about two blocks away in the Tryon and Eighth Street intersection. His wallet, keys and cell phone were missing and there was nothing else to identify the 42-year-old.

He remained a John Doe in the hospital for several days. Students who showed up for his college algebra class on Friday told administrators that he was missing, but no one knew why, said Mohammad Kazemi, the associate chair of the school's mathematics department. Dhakal was teaching while working toward a second masters degree.

Then, over the weekend, Dhakal's brother, Abi, learned his brother was missing. He called his brother's friends and, ultimately, police.

“He's a big, thick pillar of the family, the oldest son,” said Abi Dhakal. “I was just torn apart … especially when I heard what the doctor said (Wednesday) – that he was still in the woods.” Abi Dhakal said doctors had to remove part of his brother's skull because of swelling in his brain.

Investigators have talked to about five people and are reviewing video from cameras stationed uptown, Harris said, and officers have recovered Dhakal's phone. Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

The uptown entertainment district – along College and Tryon streets between Trade and Ninth streets – has been identified as one of the police department's hotspots, but doesn't have a lot of violent crime. Still, in 2007, the area represented close to 18 percent of the violent crime and more than 10 percent of the property crime in the Central District.

Even rarer are seemingly random attacks such as Dhakal's. Former Elon University student Kyle Fleischmann went missing from a bar nearby last fall; but mostly, police deal with calls related to drunk partygoers.