Off-Duty Detective on Vacation Stops Guest from Beating 5-Year-Old Over Buying a Lightsaber at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

A police detective vacationing with his family at Walt Disney World intervened to stop a tourist from beating his 5-year-old child at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last month, according to court records.

The tourist, Fernando Cunha, 49, who is from Brazil, was arrested on April 27 and charged with felony child abuse after he repeatedly struck his adopted son who has autism.

The child was upset because he wanted a “lightsaber-type sword” and Cunha wouldn’t buy it, Cunha told authorities. The child bit Cunha’s arm and that’s when Cunha said he hit the child to stop the boy from biting him further. Cunha said he was kneeling on the child to control him.

Tyler White, a detective for Mississippi’s Southaven Police Department and an FBI task force officer, heard the boy’s cries from behind the souvenir ID tag machine by the Alien Swirling Saucers ride in Toy Story Land. White saw Cunha’s arm swinging in a striking motion and saw Cunha holding the child down on the ground.

White told Cunha to stop hitting the child, but Cunha ignored him. White grabbed and held onto Cunha’s arm to keep Cunha from hitting the child again.

“No!” Cunha yelled, pointing his finger at White, according to the sheriff’s report.

Another person arrived and spoke to White, although the arrest report is partially redacted.
“Tyler explained that he was a police officer and that he would not allow Cunha to leave until law enforcement arrived to conduct an investigation,” the report said.

Tyler White told the Orange County Sheriff’s Office “the type of beating he observed could not be mistaken for ‘corporal punishment’.” Tyler went on to state that the beating was excessive.

Tyler’s wife, Chelsea, also witnessed the child abuse.

“Chelsea advised that she saw the older man kneeing the child while dragging him on the concrete. Chelsea indicated she saw the older man drag the child behind the engraving station,” the report said.

She saw Cunha strike the child’s head and face multiple times with both an open and closed fist while the child screamed.

“Chelsea advised that the child was trying to get away from Cunha. When asked how many times Cunha struck the child, Chelsea stated she saw Cunha knee the child two times and strike the child with his hand/fist three times,” the arrest report said.

Cunha has pleaded not guilty, according to Orange Circuit Court records.

His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. White said Monday he was unable to comment.

White, whose job is to investigate child abuse cases, has been honored before in Mississippi.

“Detective White was recognized today for the outstanding work he has done investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases. It is one of the toughest jobs, as a Detective,” the Southaven Police Department announced, calling him the team member of the year in 2020. “Detective White is an asset to the Southaven Police Department and our City, and we could not be more proud to call him one of our own.”

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  1. Where were the Disney employees that are suppose to be in the parks keeping everyone safe? Thank God this off duty officer was there!

    Disney World is looking less and less appealing – fights, stealing, etc…

  2. I hope he is prosecuted to the fullest. That poor little boy. Good bless the officer that stopped him. Put him in jail and throw away the key !

    1. As a mother of a autistic son I completely agree. There should be better screening for people adopting special needs children as it takes a certain amount of patience and understanding to handle the behaviors

  3. I am glad he was there to witness this beating. There is no telling how often this happens and what really goes on behind closed doors.

  4. Thank gos he was there and saw what happened I do hope the child is ok and doesn’t have to go back with those people bc who knows what will happen to him. Or what has already happen to him

  5. Why is this Autism in this child not being addressed by the childs parents. First of all the child needs a special needs therapist. Second the child needs to go to year round Austic School. Second Austic Children dont belong in a theme park when they dont understand the word No, and there are loud noises!

    1. A year-round Autistic school? My son has Autism and does not attend anything like that lol. But he does have amazing teachers who are specialized in helping children on the spectrum PLUS he sees a speech and occupational therapist every week. And all children belong at Disney World, but clearly not all adults deserve to be there. I know PLENTY of children who are not Autistic who don’t seem to understand the word “no” because they are children and some are just plain spoiled and aren’t used to being told no.

    2. I have two children with autism and go all the time with them. First of all I recommend you don’t speak about things you obviously know nothing about and second what if people who display ignorance
      and stupidity not be allowed in Disney- hhhmmm. I absolutely truly dont agree with that but that comment was awful and absolutely not needed. Everyone is equal and deserve to be treated fairly. You just hurt many parents with such an ugly comment if that was your plan you succeeded. All children even with disabilities deserve to go and you dont even know what kind of parent he was to the boy. I agree with the comment below that even children without autism throw fits and dont know the word no. If they would have never said he was autistic you would have felt compassion for the child and thats just awful- awful!!! Now I am mad at myself for wasting 5 minutes responding to your comment.

  6. Imagine, this is only one public incident. God only knows what this poor child endures behind closed doors.

  7. Totally unacceptable!! If he would do this to this child In public What is happening to the child at home behind closed doors? He does not deserve to have a child.

  8. Sadly he will probably just be sent back to Brazil, where he will reclaim the child and the abuse will continue. How dreadful.

  9. More parent should follow this man’s lead. Whether it is Disney Land, or Shop Rite supermarket, They are not to dictate parental behavior. Everyone in this day are acting like Public Venues are day care facilities.

  10. As the parents of an Autistic adult, with many Disney trips under our belt we can understand the occasional meltdown and over the years learned to deal with them in as calm a manner as possible. However, this man chose to respond to an “autism moment ” with brutality. It sickened me to read this story. He shouldn’t be near ANY child let alone one with special needs. Thank God that officer was near when that child needed help. His community is blessed to have him. Protecting our precious children, a hero !

  11. Trying to fight with/restrain an autistic child can look much more violent than it is. Oftentimes the child is more a danger to themselves if not dealt with which can include holding them down, grabbing their arms, holding their head to prevent headbutting the concrete. It can be a very stressful situation and can look scary from onlookers. An autistic tantrum can have a child flailing around and a parent struggling to keep one step ahead of their movements. Of course it will look like a child trying to get away. For the father to not stop even when being asked in a public place like Disney world tells me he was probably trying his best to protect his child and not actually abusing him/her. I’d like to hear his side of the story. Innocent til proven guilty.

    1. The man who intervened is a trained detective, who by the way first just asked the man to stop before he stepped in and grabbed his arm. I should think he understands the difference in a parent dealing with a child having a tantrum versus abuse. He and his wife saw this man PUNCHING this poor child with a closed fist. My son has Autism and there has NEVER been any reason for me to make a closed fist and punch him to calm him down. This was not a simple case of a child just crying and screaming and the parent was trying to calm them down. And yes, they were in public, which is why this dad DRAGGED the child behind a stand where people weren’t around and proceeded to kneel on him and punch him. You can try to defend him all you want but yikes. You are cute if you think no parent has ever abused their child at a Disney park because “they’re in public.” I used to work at Disney World and you would be amazed at the things that go on there. I was there one night when a mom was high on meth and trying to push her daughter off the Dumbo ride while it was in motion. Despicable people are going to be despicable no matter where they are.

  12. This child should be taking away because once he goes back to his native land, his step father will end up killing the poor boy!!!!

  13. Thank you detective White for your service.

    My son and daughter-in-law are ICU nurses and were at Disney World in mid April. They saved the life of a 16 yr old girl from Ohio who went into cardiac arrest by performing CPR. Disney acknowledged them with a bottle of water. Thank you to all of the nurses who work so diligently for the significant impact you have on our society!

  14. If I bit my father, you better believe that I would be punished. He should have just left with his child.

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