Homeless Man at Walt Disney World Charged with Battery for Forcibly Shoving Candy Down a Sheriff Deputy’s Body Armor

Katie Francis

Walt Disney World entrance arch

Homeless Man at Walt Disney World Charged with Battery for Forcibly Shoving Candy Down a Sheriff Deputy’s Body Armor

A homeless man being kicked out of Walt Disney World Resort shoved candy down a sheriff deputy’s body armor just before the deputy arrested him.

Walt Disney World entrance arch

Zachary Coley, 35, was arrested and charged with battery on law enforcement (a third-degree felony), according to Orange Circuit Court records. Coley pleaded not guilty this month and is represented by the Public Defender’s Office.

The incident unfolded around 10 p.m. on March 26, according to an arrest report released this week.

Authorities said Coley was “acting erratic” by Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, although the arrest report doesn’t go into more details about how he behaved.

Disney World first responders were called in to evaluate him, but Coley refused medical attention.

Coley ran toward the nearby STK Steakhouse and then kept going west through Disney Springs.

“I approached the subject and made contact with him,” the deputy wrote in the arrest report. “I asked if he was OK to which he replied in an incoherent manner. I informed him that Disney wished to have him officially trespassed and asked if he had an identification with him. I informed him that we would issue him the trespass notice and have him on his way.”

A wide shot of the Disney Springs water tower.

As he talked to Coley about leaving Disney Springs, Coley pulled out two bags of candy from his laptop bag and asked the deputy if he wanted some.

“After telling Zachary multiple times that I did not want the candy, he attempted to place it on my external body armor,” the deputy wrote in the report. “When he observed that the bag would not stay where he was trying to place it, with the candy still in his hand, he grabbed the front of my vest in the area of the neck, abruptly jerked it away from my body and began to shove the candy down the front of the inside of my vest.”

Coley was arrested and taken to jail.

WDWNT reached out to Kate Santich, who is the spokesperson for the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, and shared the arrest report. Her organization advocates for people who are homeless which is a growing problem in Central Florida as rents and housing prices keep rising.

Here is her statement:

“From the arrest affidavit, the deputy appears to have given Mr. Coley numerous chances to leave with no more than a warning, and I don’t think anyone should expect to be able to grab at a law enforcement officer’s vest, try to pull it off, and attempt to shove an object inside it without facing arrest. Frankly, the deputy seems to have exhibited patience and behaved appropriately.

That said, the report states Mr. Coley was intoxicated and behaving bizarrely, so we don’t know if mental illness is a factor. While mental illness does make people more vulnerable to becoming homeless, it’s also true that homelessness is itself a traumatic experience and that some people use alcohol and drugs to numb their bleak reality.

I also don’t know what other options there might have been for criminal charges, although on its face a felony seems harsh. However, I also know that many times charges are reduced at a later date.

While people experiencing homelessness are far more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators of crime, in this particular case (based on the arrest affidavit alone) Mr. Coley appears to have escalated a situation that should have allowed him to walk away. We hope he ultimately gets the help he needs, whether that may be substance abuse treatment or something else, and that he is referred to programs to address his housing needs.”

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