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A.K.A.: "The Miami Zombie" - "The Causeway Cannibal"
Classification: Attacker
Characteristics: Cannibalism - During the 18-minute filmed encounter, Eugene (who was himself stripped nude) accused Poppo of stealing his Bible, beat him unconscious, removed Poppo's pants, and bit off most of Poppo's face above the beard, including his left eye, leaving him blind in both.
Number of victims: 0
Date of murder: May 26, 2012
Date of birth: February 4, 1981
Victim profile: Ronald Edward Poppo, 65 (a homeless drinker)
Method of murder: Beating - Biting
Location: Miami, Florida, USA
Status: Shot to death by Miami police the same day

photo gallery 1


very graphic! photo gallery 2 very graphic!


City of Miami Police Department Homicide Unit


Statement of Mr. Ronald Poppo (2.2 Mb)


Miami cannibal attack

The Miami cannibal attack occurred on May 26, 2012, when Rudy Eugene assaulted Ronald Poppo on the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, Florida. During the 18-minute filmed encounter, Eugene (who was himself stripped nude) accused Poppo of stealing his Bible, beat him unconscious, removed Poppo's pants, and bit off most of Poppo's face above the beard, including his left eye, leaving him blind in both.

As a result of the incident's shocking nature and subsequent worldwide media coverage, Eugene came to be dubbed the "Miami Zombie" as well as the "Causeway Cannibal". The attack ended when Eugene was fatally shot by a Miami police officer.

Although friends and family have filled in details of Eugene's life, the reason for the attack remains unclear. Eugene, 31, employed at a car wash at the time, was a divorced former high school football player with a series of petty criminal arrests from age 16 until most recently in 2009. Poppo, 65, a graduate of Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School, was homeless and had long been presumed dead by his estranged family.

While police sources speculated that the use of a street drug like "bath salts" might have been a factor, and experts have expressed doubt as to their definitiveness, toxicology reports were only able to identify marijuana, and the ultimate cause of Eugene's behavior remains unknown.


The morning of May 26, 2012, Eugene drove to Miami Beach, to Urban Beach Week. His flag-draped purple Chevrolet Caprice eventually became disabled, and, after spending 30–40 minutes filmed on security video in and around the car, according to eyewitnesses he abandoned it about noon and began to cross the three-mile long span of the MacArthur Causeway, stripping himself of his clothing and disposing of his driver’s license as he advanced westward. His vehicle was eventually discovered and towed by Miami Beach police. Inside the car, police discovered a bible and five empty water bottles, which they believe were recently consumed.

Eugene, eventually completely naked, having discarded even his shoes and lastly his Bible at the crime scene, encountered Poppo at approximately 1:55 pm. Poppo had been lying underneath an elevated Metromover railway when Eugene began to pummel him, strip him of his pants, and bite his face. The attack unfolded at the west end of the MacArthur Causeway, near the headquarters of The Miami Herald in the Omni neighborhood of Downtown Miami.

It was at first believed that neither Eugene nor Poppo knew the other before their encounter, until a July 2012 publication revealed that Eugene had met Poppo while working for the homeless community of Miami. A passing cyclist, Larry Vega, came upon the scene and alerted authorities via 9-1-1.

A few minutes later, Miami Police Department officer Jose Ramirez arrived and, after doing a double take at the spectacle, warned Eugene to desist from attacking Poppo. Eugene ignored the officer's warnings and, instead, reportedly growled at him, then resumed biting his victim.

The attack ended at 2:13 PM with Officer Ramirez shooting Eugene once at first and then another four times when that proved ineffective. The ordeal had been captured by a security camera on The Miami Herald building. The surveillance video shows that the attack continued for 18 minutes before help arrived.


Poppo, age 65, was admitted into Jackson Memorial Hospital, critically injured, with 75–80% of his face above the beard missing and his left eye gouged out in the attack.

He underwent facial reconstruction surgeries that took months to complete and remained permanently disfigured and blind. To combat the costs, a fund was set up and has collected $100,700 since July 17, 2012.

Poppo, who lost sight in both his eyes, spoke to police, whom he thanked for saving his life, on July 19, explaining that Eugene, whom he hardly knew, approached him in a friendly manner but then, complaining he couldn't "score" at the beach and "souped up on something", started talk about how they were going to die, accused Poppo of stealing his bible, and, suddenly and without provocation, attacked and strangled him with wrestling holds, and then "plucked out" both his eyes.

Inconclusive investigation

Although the autopsy revealed no human flesh in Eugene's stomach, a number of undigested pills were discovered that have not yet been identified. Although police sources had speculated that the street drug "bath salts" might have been involved, preliminary toxicology reports were positive only for the presence of marijuana.

Authorities have not necessarily found the negative results conclusive; Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti has expressed a belief that some new drug not yet tested for played a role; nationally noted toxicologist Barry Logan said Eugene's behavior was consistent with "bath salts" and that toxicologists "are not testing for everything that may be out there"; and the director of toxicology at the University of Florida, Dr. Bruce Goldberger, said, "We are not incompetent...We have the tools, we have the sophistication and know-how. But the field is evolving so rapidly it is hard for us to keep track. It's almost as if it is a race we can never win."


Rudy Eugene was born on February 4, 1981 at the Jackson Memorial Hospital. He was of Haitian descent through his immigrant parents who divorced months after his birth. Eugene never made contact with his father, who died when he was six. He attended the Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church with his families on most Sundays. Eugene attended North Miami Beach High School in the 10th and 11th grades, and he played on its football team in the late 1990s.

At the age of 17, he transferred to North Miami High School. After graduating, Eugene acquired money from such sources as selling CDs and jobs at McDonald’s and in telemarketing. His last recorded employment was washing cars at a local automobile dealership. Eugene had expressed interest in establishing his own mobile car wash business.

Eugene's marriage to Jenny Ductant, from 2005 to 2008, ended in divorce, with Ductant reporting that there had been domestic violence in the relationship. The divorce was granted on January 8, 2008. They had no children from their relationship. Eugene then became estranged from Ductant until his death. Between his divorce proceedings, he met Rikkia Cross in 2007, with whom he remained until his death.

Criminal history

Eugene was arrested eight times from the age of 16, with the first arrest being for an assault in 1997. Another assault occurred on February 25, 2004, when Eugene broke a table, smashed items around the house, and pushed his mother out of the kitchen. Afterward, Eugene's mother Ruth told officers that he had said, "I'll put a gun to your head and kill you." This crime led to his serving probation for resisting an officer without violence. The remaining charges were mainly related to marijuana, which he had expressed a desire to quit. His last arrest was in September 2009.


Ronald Edward Poppo was born on May 17, 1947. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and after achieving an IQ score of 129, attended Manhattan's prestigious Stuyvesant High School where he was a member of the Latin Club and worked in the guidance office. A former classmate reported that, after high school, Poppo enrolled at nearby City College but he dropped out in late 1966. Poppo would become homeless in early 1976.

On May 24, 2012, two days before the attack, workers from the Miami Homeless Assistance Program discovered him and offered him the services of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. Poppo declined assistance, however.

At the time of the attack, Poppo's family, including a daughter named Janice Poppo DiBello (born 1968) had not heard from him in over 30 years. During that time, they assumed that Poppo was dead and suspected that he had killed himself. They were shocked to learn he was still alive at the time of the incident.


The unraveling of Rudy Eugene, the Miami face attacker

By Nadege Green and Audra D.S. Burch - Miami Herald

July 14, 2012

Ruth Charles could not find a Haitian church in Miami to hold a funeral for her son, Rudy Eugene.

The brutal details of his attack on a homeless man, the roaring headlines, the whispers of Vodou or demonic possession, all conspired against Charles, who simply wanted to bury her son with a proper church service and then return to a quiet, anonymous life with a fiancé and two younger sons.

The first church said no, followed by the second. The third said yes then backed out. Same for the fourth church.

The news of Eugene’s death on Memorial Day weekend was already too well known. He was shot to death by Miami police as he crouched over Ronald Poppo’s limp body, naked and growling, chewing off chunks of the man’s face. It took several bullets fired by a stunned police officer to stop him. At 31, the son who had carried a Bible, quoted scripture and worn a four-inch cross on a chain around his neck had become something unrecognizable, known across the nation as the Miami zombie.

Two weeks after Eugene died, a funeral home chapel agreed to hold a service. His mother shuffled into the chapel, sank into a front pew and quietly cried throughout the hourlong service.

“I felt so much frustration. I was angry,” said Charles, 57, though she would not name the churches who had turned her down. “They were members of my Haitian community. They turned their back on me.”

Yet faith remains a recurring theme in the story of Eugene’s life — and in his horrifying death. It is why he evangelized, led a Bible study for friends and had recently been looking for a church home. It is what sent his mother door to door, looking for a church that would have her son’s funeral. It is why police found verses ripped from his Bible scattered across the MacArthur Causeway a few feet from his body. And, perhaps, it is what helps people understand what happened that afternoon.

“Religion and culture are playing a huge role in this story. And because this is very much a story that makes no sense, religion is being used as a framework for understanding,’’ says Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, a University of Miami associate professor of religious studies. “People are using their belief of evil spirits, of dark and light, to try to explain what happened that day.’’

Charles’ fiancé, Raymond Leo, who was with Charles each time a church said no, said she put on a brave face in public but crumbled behind closed doors, overwhelmed by grief and rejection.

“When you’re a Christian, you want the funeral to be in the church,’’ he said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.’’

Fast cars, sports and marijuana

Before Rudy Eugene became infamous, he was a fairly ordinary guy — he liked sports, fast cars, action movies. But even those closest to him say Eugene was introspective and private. Now they are left wondering if that quiet shielded something darker, something that drove him to break with reality on a Saturday afternoon in May. Though it was widely speculated that Eugene was under the influence of “bath salts,” a powerful synthetic amphetamine that has fueled a handful of grisly flesh-eating attacks across the country, toxicology tests showed Eugene’s body was clean except for marijuana. A lingering question remains, though — especially among experts — because some synthetic drugs are undetectable. Mental illness could also be a factor, though none of his friends or family say they noticed anything that would lead to that conclusion.

“I am shocked by the situation. I don’t know what to say about it, how to interpret it, how to express it,’’ said Fredric Christian, Eugene’s close friend since they were teens. “The only thing I know for sure is Rudy was something other than this monster people talk about.’’

But there are others who believe Eugene was depressed or struggling within.

“Drugs can open the gateway to the demons inside of you. Whatever he took open[ed] that gateway and a demon came out,’’ said Joe Aurelus, a friend of Eugene’s since they attended church together as children. “Whatever he was fighting, it came out. I believe in spiritual battles. I believe in demons.

“Rudy was fighting a demon that day and he lost.”

Eugene was born Feb. 4, 1981, at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His parents, Ruth Charles and Pellisier Funeus, both Haitian immigrants, divorced months before his birth. Eugene would never meet his father, who died when he was 6, though he would bitterly search for details in later years.

His mother remembers gazing into his tiny face, right after he was born, and thinking, “ ‘That’s a handsome boy.’ He had a lot of hair and his eyes were so alert.”

She worked exhausting hours assembling shoes at a Doral factory, earning just enough to care for her son and send a few dollars home to Haiti. Originally from Cap Haitien, a port city at the northern end of the island, Charles was the daughter of farmers.

“Where I came from, we were poor,’’ said Charles, who married Melimon Charles in 1985 and had two more sons, Thompson and Marckenson. “Sometimes my mom couldn’t buy sugar to put in the tea.’’

But it was that unforgettable poverty that drove Charles to work hard and demand the same of her sons, a pressure that sometimes would spark fights.

As a young boy, Eugene had a huge appetite, a talent for drawing family portraits and a fondness for singing Yes, Jesus Loves Me.

Most Sundays, he attended with his family Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Miami — made up of a predominantly Haitian congregation — dressed in a freshly pressed shirt, slacks and shiny dress shoes.

Charles presented her boys with a Bible when they turned 8 and she believed they were old enough to understand its significance. When she handed the Bible to her oldest son, she told him, “This is your life. Anything you want to know about life, go there.”

By high school, though, Eugene had stopped going to church regularly. He kept reading the Bible. And he clung to one tradition: Every night, he would get down on his knees and pray, according to friends and family.

He loved football, playing defensive end in middle and high school. He rough-housed with his brothers, copying wrestling moves they’d seen on television. “He would pick me up and throw me on the bed,” his brother Marckenson, now 25, remembered. “He would act like I knocked him out to make me feel good.”

But when Eugene was in the ninth or 10th grade , his world was shaken to the core. His mother told him that her husband, Melimon Charles, the man he had called “Daddy” since he was 2, was not his biological father. And he would later learn the father he’d never known was dead.

The boy was angry at first, Melimon Charles said.

Eventually, he said, the boy accepted “the truth and we were doing fine.”

But signs of trouble began to crop up. When Eugene was 16, he was arrested for battery. The charges were later dropped, but it was the first of a string of arrests on charges ranging from trespassing to marijuana possession. In all, he was arrested seven times in five years, the last in 2009.

Graduation from North Miami High School in 2000 only left him more adrift. Ruth Charles had become a nursing assistant and she wanted Eugene to work in the healthcare industry, too.

“I would go after him to go to college, go to vocational school, learn something,” she said, but the conversations often ended in a fight. “I wanted him to be in healthcare because you can always get a job.’’

Instead Eugene was a wanderer, never quite settling down. He lived off and on with friends and his mother — she ordered him out of the house several times. He detailed cars at dealerships and worked as a forklift operator. He talked about becoming a small-business owner, wanting to open up a mobile car wash.

Three powerful jolts from a taser

In 2004, Eugene had another fight with his mother. This time, it escalated. Sweating profusely, he pushed her out of the kitchen, smashed a table and told her, “I’ll put a gun to your head and kill you,’’ according to police.

When North Miami Beach police arrived, he “balled his hands into a fist” and threatened several police officers. When one officer drew his Taser, Eugene responded, “What you gonna shock me,’’ and “I’ll kick your ass.” It took three Taser shots to subdue Eugene.

“Thank God you’re here, he would have killed me,” Charles told officers on the scene.

While Eugene was being transported to the station he told police, “Officer I’m sorry, I should have never acted like that. My mother just makes me upset because she always calls me a bum.’’

The battery charge was later dropped, but Eugene pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and was sentenced to probation.

About six weeks before Eugene turned 24, he married Jenny Ductant, who he met while studying in high school. The marriage broke up after 18 months because she said he was violent, according to an interview on WPLG-ABC 10 in May.

In 2007, he met Rikkia Cross as they were both in their cars at a red light, made eye contact and he honked the horn at her. Drawn to his good looks, Cross gave Eugene her phone number, the beginning of a rocky but enduring five-year relationship.

Weeks after his death, Cross sat in the wood paneled living room of her parents’ modest home in Miami Gardens, the only place she says she feels safe, outside of media scrutiny. Crying, she slowly scrolled through her cellphone looking at pictures of Eugene, the most recent taken the day before he was killed.

Cross, a dispatcher at an air-conditioning company, talked softly about how they connected instantly, how after only five months, the couple moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Broward County. They spent time watching movies, riding go-karts and reading the Bible. She kept the pantry stocked with his favorite snack: Famous Amos cookies, chocolate chip and pecan.

“Rudy was sweet and kind,” she said, “the type of dude you want to be with forever. He was my heart.’’

As friends and family try to piece together Eugene’s final hours, a few of the gaps have been filled in. The evening before the attack, Christian, Eugene’s longtime friend, said a troubled Eugene came over to visit Christian’s brother.

“My brother said Rudy didn’t look right,’’ Christian said. “[Eugene] said he needed to talk to [my brother] about something but never got a chance to say what it was.”

The next morning, Cross said, Eugene was up about 5 a.m. scouring their closet for something, leaving heaps of clothing strewn across the room. He kissed Cross on the lips and walked out the door carrying his King James Bible and a brown book he used to jot down scriptures.

“It felt like he was searching for something,” she said. “I don’t know what.”

Hours passed. Cross began to worry. It was unusual for Eugene not to check in. She said she called his cellphone dozens of times, tried his friends and finally drove the familiar streets of North Miami hoping to spot his 1995 Chevy Caprice nicknamed, “the purple monster.’’

As Cross searched for Eugene along State Road 7, he had somehow made his way from South Beach — where his car was later found — to the west end of the causeway. Around 2 p.m., he came upon Poppo, 65, who has spent three decades on Miami’s streets. Poppo was in a shady spot along the off-ramp to Biscayne Boulevard next to the Miami Herald building. Eugene began to attack Poppo, ripping off his pants and nearly destroying his face in a relentless 18-minute assault partially caught on Herald surveillance video.

Poppo and Eugene had crossed paths before. A few years ago, Christian said he and Eugene were doing community work feeding the homeless, and the two of them met Poppo.

“Poppo seemed like a nice and kind man,” said Christian, 34. “I remember when we gave him food.’’

It wasn’t until two days after the attack that Cross and Eugene’s family would learn the man shot by police was Eugene. That night, Eugene’s mug shot from an earlier arrest — bearded, blank expression — was leading the news, had gone viral and would later become the gruesome punch line of jokes about a Miami zombie cannibal apocalypse.

Friends and family were left reeling, forced to ask if something in his past — the questions about his father, the aimlessness, the casual drug use, his troubled spiritual state — somehow figured into the attack.

“What he fell into, to get into this situation, I don’t know,” said Melimon, tears welling in his eyes. “I wish he were alive so he could tell me [what happened] ... He always told me, ‘Daddy, I’m going to make it.’”

Among the clues he left behind was a Quran in his car and a Facebook page, filled with religious references. An April 22 entry is garbled, confusing: The Lord side to my Lord. Sit at My right hand. Till. I make. Your enemies Your footstool.

In the weeks before Eugene’s mother returned to her job at a nursing home, she began to take small steps toward healing, running errands, trying to ignore the mean comments about her son and family. Then, during a visit to a nail salon, Ruth Charles overheard a stranger discussing her son, loudly offering her opinion about how Eugene ended up on the causeway, naked and violent.

It was Vodou, the woman explained matter-of-factly, claiming Rudy came from a line of Haitian practitioners of Vodou and was under a spell.

“The mom is a manbo. His dad is a manbo. The family just took him to Haiti,” the woman said, referring to the Haitian term for Vodou priest or priestess. Charles said she sat there stunned by the lies. Eugene had never even been to Haiti and her family did not practice Vodou.

“They talk so much crap,” she said. “It hurts to hear.”

Closing their doors to a grieving mom

Charles had always been a deeply spiritual woman who attended Sunday service and sang in the choir. So at first, she refused to believe that a church wouldn’t hold a funeral service for her son.

She started by calling churches in Little Haiti and Northeast Miami. Then she tried in person, a mother’s singular plea.

On the third attempt, a week after he was dead, she found a Little Haiti church that would allow her to hold her son’s final farewell. She planned a sermon, testimony, eulogy and songs — in the company of those who remembered Eugene before the attack.

The pastor took her deposit. But two days before the service, he told her his congregation and church leaders did not feel comfortable having his body in their church.

That afternoon, she found another church, blocks away, still in the heart of the Haitian community.

Less than 24 hours before the service, that pastor called and cancelled, too.

At that point, Charles made a hard decision. Her youngest son, Marckenson, sent out a mass text message again to those planning to attend. The service would be held in the chapel of a funeral home.

“I believe that we can all agree in this room what happened two weeks ago on Saturday ending Rudy’s life is not consistent with who Rudy was,” said Pastor Keny Felix of Bethel, who was one of the speakers at the service. “The events of May 26 remind us that we live in a broken world. We live in a dark world.”

Eugene is buried in a corner of a cemetery in Miami-Dade. His girlfriend visits his grave, with its simple stone marker and artificial bouquet of purple and yellow blossoms, to remind him that he was loved, that he is forgiven and to somehow get closer to the truth.

“What happened to Rudy had to be supernatural, something humans cannot explain, something that leaves us with a lot of questions,’’ she said. “I just wish he would come to me in a dream and answer all the questions. I wish he would tell me what happened that day.’’


Medical examiner: Man who chewed off other man's face had only pot in his system

Miami Herald

June 27, 2012

Rudy Eugene, the man who chewed off a homeless man’s face on the MacArthur Causeway and was shot to death by Miami police, had no drugs in his system other than marijuana, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s office said Wednesday.

On May 26, Eugene stripped off his clothes along the causeway from Miami Beach before attacking 65-year-old Ronald Poppo in a ghoulish, drawn-out assault in plain view on a city sidewalk captured by a Miami Herald security camera. Eugene was shot by a police officer who found him chewing chunks off Poppo’s face.

The bizarre details of the attack prompted speculation that the 31-year-old attacker was under the influence of harder drugs. Soon after the incident, for example, the head of the Miami police union publicly speculated that Eugene was on “bath salts,” synthetic stimulants that have been blamed for seemingly psychotic episodes in other cases around the country.

But the medical examiner — after seeking help from an outside forensic toxicology lab — could find no evidence of the common components of “bath salts” in Eugene’s system. Nor did the lab find evidence of synthetic marijuana or LSD.

The medical examiner also found that Eugene had not ingested cocaine, heroin, PCP, oxycodone, amphetamines or any other known street drug other than marijuana — a drug not known for sparking violence.

“Within the limits of current technology by both laboratories, marijuana is the only drug identified in the body of Mr. Rudy Eugene,” the medical examiner’s office said in a press release.

The autopsy initially found evidence of a substance in Eugene’s stomach that appeared to be undigested pills, law enforcement sources told The Herald. But the medical examiner’s press release Wednesday did not address what that substance may have been.

The toxicology findings lend further mystery to Eugene’s unprompted attack on Poppo, the homeless man Eugene found dozing in the shade of the Metromover train tracks before attacking him. Eugene, who worked at a car wash, had a record of minor, nonviolent drug offenses, though he was accused of threatening his mother in a domestic dispute in 2004.

Rikkia Cross, Eugene’s on-again off-again girlfriend, is now convinced that Eugene’s actions are the result of something “supernatural” that afflicted him.

“Somebody did something to him, somebody put something on him. I know for sure that wasn’t Rudy,” Cross said on Wednesday.

Cross last saw Eugene in the early morning hours of May 26, more than eight hours before the attack on the causeway. At about 5:30 a.m., Eugene woke Cross and told her that he was meeting a friend.

Cross said Eugene was acting odd that morning, rummaging through closets. He kissed her goodbye and walked out of their Broward County apartment holding his Bible.

Eugene ended up on Miami Beach — which was hosting Urban Beach Week — where his car apparently broke down. But it’s still unclear what Eugene was doing on the beach in the hours before the attack.

Shortly before 2 p.m. on May 26, motorists began calling police reporting a naked man walking down the road and hanging off light posts. Police later found torn Bible pages strewn along the causeway.

Then Eugene encountered Poppo; Eugene rolled the homeless man onto the sidewalk, pummeling Poppo and removing his pants before gnawing on his face, security footage shows. The entire attack lasted about 18 minutes.

Poppo is recovering at Jackson Memorial Hospital.


911 tapes about MacArthur Causeway attack are released

Miami police released tapes of three 911 calls from people who saw parts of the encounter between Rudy Eugene and Ronald Poppo,

By Elinor J, Brecher and Scott Hiaansen -

June 1, 2012

The woman’s voice is agitated and urgent. She believes she’s just seen someone about to die.

“It’s a naked man beating another man, beating him, on the MacArthur Causeway, like toward the Miami Herald.... He’s gonna kill that man, I promise you, ok?’’

The woman is a Miami-Dade bus driver, one of three people who called police on May 26.

What two of them saw was Rudy Eugene, 31, savaging Ronald Poppo, 65. By the time police arrived, Eugene had chewed off Poppo’s face.

The Miami Police Department released the 911 tapes of the three calls on Friday, but it’s unclear in what order or at what time they were received.

In addition to the bus driver, another man called to report what they thought was a fight.

In the third call, a man sounds nonchalant.

“Hi, how ya doing? I’m just reporting a naked man in front of the Miami Herald building on the highway.’’

The dispatcher asks if the naked man is on a pole.

“He’s next to a pole, actually,’’ the man says. “He was taking off his clothes and throwing them into traffic. He’s a black male, curly hair, Rastafarian hair, goatee. You can’t miss him. He’s naked.’’

The dispatcher tries to narrow down the location: “What is that, 836?’’

Man: “But he’s on the sidewalk next to the expressway. He definitely is on the side of the Miami Herald building. You could send somebody over there. Yup — there he is.’’

A younger-sounding man also called in to report that “in the bike lane sort of thing, two bums, they were goin’ at it, taking up the whole lane. I think they were fighting.’’

The caller says he’s at Northeast 13th Street and North Bayshore Drive off the causeway ramp, and that the men are “clearly visible.’’

The dispatcher asks for his phone number, which he reluctantly gives after saying he’s “leaving the area.’’ He describes the men as “black or Hispanic or just very tan.”

When the dispatcher asks for his name, he says: “Mike.’’

“They almost knocked over an old lady who was riding by,’’ he tells the dispatcher. “I thought you should know.’’

Reached at home on Friday evening, “Mike’’ said he made his call at 2:07 p.m. That would have been about five minutes before police showed up.

Mike declined to give his last name. He said he saw no blood when he passed by the scene, and “did not get a good look’’ at what the two men were doing.

“Honestly,’’ he said, “I thought they were having sex.’’

On the tapes, only the bus driver, who would have had a higher vantage point than a conventional motorist, seems alarmed.

When the dispatcher asks if she has an emergency, she says, “Yes, I do. Listen, there is a naked man on the MacArthur Causeway, at the end of the causeway coming toward Biscayne. He is beating another man to a pulp, like on top of the man, beating him. He is bleeding.’’

She tells the dispatcher: “I’m a bus driver. I passed by and saw what was happening. It’s a naked man beating another man, beating him, on the McArthur toward the Miami Herald at the end of the causeway. He’s gonna kill that man, I promise you.’’

In surveillance footage shot from the Herald, three buses pass by during the 18-minute attack.

The first rolls by slowly, just as Eugene appears to be standing over Poppo, stripping him. The bus passes at about 2 p.m., some 13 minutes before the first police officer arrived on the scene. This bus also pauses on the causeway ramp several yards before the traffic light at North Bayshore.

A second bus passes more than six minutes later. This bus does not appear to slow down.

About a minute later, a third bus, which appears to be a tour-type bus, passes by.

Poppo survived the attack, but police shot and killed Eugene, who refused an order to stop his assault, and, with flesh in his mouth, growled at police.

Poppo, who’d been homeless for decades, remains in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital.


Victim in flesh-eating attack on MacArthur Causeway had hard life on Miami streets

The victim of the vicious attack has been identified as 65-year-old Ronald E. Poppo, who remains in critical condition at JMH’s Ryder Trauma Center

By Elinor J, Brecher, Scott Hiaansen and Frances Robles -

May 31, 2012

Ronald Poppo had a hard-knock life on the streets.

A homeless drinker who had been shot once and arrested two dozen times, he is fighting for his life at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center after an 18-minute cannibal attack that cost him most of his face. At 65, he’s been homeless for almost four decades.

His hardscrabble existence took a volatile turn Saturday afternoon, when he encountered Rudy Eugene, a 31-year-old former North Miami Beach High School football player who liked to smoke marijuana and hoped to start his own mobile car-wash business.

Eugene died in a hail of police bullets when he mauled Poppo in a sudden and unprovoked attack. Eugene will be forever remembered as the Miami Zombie.

“Rudy was not a face-eating zombie monster,” said his high school friend Victoria Forte. “The Rudy we know was a nice gentleman with a warm smile, and funny.”

It’s unclear what brought the two unlikely characters together on the MacArthur Causeway. Poppo was known for hanging out on and under the bridge there; Eugene liked to go to South Beach for Memorial Day Urban Beach Week.

A Miami Herald video showed Eugene on the Miami end of the MacArthur Causeway shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday, naked and in an apparent drug-fueled rage. He straddled Poppo, punched him, tore off his clothes and gnawed at his face as at least four cyclists rode by and the newspaper’s surveillance camera rolled.

The carnage ended at 2:13 p.m., when Miami Police officer Jose Ramirez ordered Eugene to stop, and then shot him at least five times.

Eugene’s friends were stunned to learn of his involvement in the bizarre case. They described him as funny and friendly, with a particularly radiant smile. He was normal, and did not suffer from any mental illnesses, they said.

“He wasn’t homeless. He had a place to stay. He had a car, and he worked,” said Erica Smith, a close friend and former roommate of Eugene’s. “He had his ups and downs, but he was not an aggressive person. He was really sweet and giving.”

Smith said Eugene was down on his luck about five years ago with a string of arrests and a broken marriage, but recently was getting his life back together.

In 2004, North Miami Beach Police had to use a Taser to subdue him during a domestic dispute.

“He did smoke, I’m not going to lie about that,” Smith said. “Someone must have given him something really bad. A few days ago he told my brother that he was really depressed and didn’t want to live anymore. He was a guy who just wanted a family and someone to love him.”

Toxicology reports on Eugene’s body have not been completed. A Miami police union official speculated that he must have been high on LSD or some other drug that causes psychosis as the body overheats. As doctors and pundits hypothesized about what could have caused an ordinary man to do something so extreme, police said no tangible evidence to explain it had emerged.

Eugene graduated from North Miami Beach High in 2000. He lived off and on with his mother and friends and did an assortment of odd jobs, from selling CDs to working at McDonald’s and telemarketing. He last worked washing cars at an automobile dealership, Smith said.

Lately, he spoke of buying his own mobile car-wash business. His own late ’90s model Chevrolet Caprice was discovered Tuesday at an impound lot, after it was towed from South Beach.

“He was always looking for ways to make money. Not necessarily illegal, but sometimes he got in trouble with it,” said his lifelong friend, Daniel Ruiz. “But for Rudy to do something that graphic, that aggressive, that violent, that gruesome — that’s what’s really troubling us. Rudy? Really? Rudy? Naw.”

He said Eugene liked to freestyle rap and listen to music.

“He had his little problems, but nothing too dramatic,” Ruiz said. “He was sane.”

Forte, his North Miami Beach High classmate, said other members of the class of 2000 want to spread the word that Eugene was better known for his stint playing defensive end in high school, doing generous favors for friends and cheering them up on bad days.

Cassandra Metayer agreed.

“This is not his character,” said Metayer, who went to middle school and high school with Eugene. “This type of behavior is very unexpected. He was a good person, a true friend. He was a nice, outgoing ready-to-help-anybody kind of guy. I’m not just saying that; he really was that person.”

Metayer said Eugene, the son of Haitian immigrants, grew up in North Miami Beach. In 2005, he married Metayer’s cousin, Jenny Ductant, but they divorced two years later.

Metayer said the two split because they had taken different paths in life, particularly as Ductant continued her education.

The couple’s 2007 divorce record shows he had no income, and his assets included $2 cash and $50 for a cell phone. His former wife agreed to take on the couple’s debt, which included the power and phone bills.

She told one local TV station that he had a violent past, but when reached by phone, declined to discuss it with The Herald. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Ductant said.

“He loved his family, loved his friends,” Metayer said. “It had to be drugs; someone in their right mind doesn’t do that. This is not the act of a normal person. It has to be someone under the influence.”

Despite his friends’ insistence that Eugene had never had any problems, records show he had repeated brushes with the law.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Eugene was arrested by Miami Beach police on a battery charge when he was 16, but the case was dropped.

Records show he was arrested seven other times over five years. Court records show that one was for misdemeanor battery, one was for vending near a school, one was for trespassing and four involved marijuana.

His last arrest was in September 2009. In January, the charge was dropped.

A string of arrests is something he had in common with his victim, who had a record showing at least 24 arrests dating back to 1978. Records show Ronald Poppo, born in New York, lived for a time in the 1980s in New Orleans.

Most of his arrests were for drinking in public and trespassing, but he also had a handful of felony cases for burglary, assault and resisting arrest.

The record suggests that he’s been on the streets a long time: In 1983, he was arrested for sleeping in public.

Court records also show that Poppo was treated for a gunshot wound at Jackson Memorial Hospital in January 1976. He listed his address at the time as a Salvation Army facility on Flagler Street.

His last mug shot showed him with a white beard and the tanned face of a man who spent a lot of time on the streets.

“I called him Kenny Rogers,” said Emory Robert Spencer, who last saw Poppo having dinner Friday at the Miami Rescue Mission.

A man leaving supper at the Miami Rescue Mission on Tuesday evening who identified himself only as Rafael said he’d known Poppo for about 15 years, and that he stayed on Watson Island.

Another man staying in a utility trailer on Watson Island said Poppo generally stayed on the north side of Jungle Island, near a public restroom building west of the Miami Outboard Club.

"He never bothered nobody,’’ said Rafael, exactly what Emory Spencer had to say.

Miami Herald staff writers Nadege Greene, Melissa Sanchez, Amy Sherman, David Ovalle, Carli Teproff, Manny Navarro andDaniela Guzman contributed to this report.


Girlfriend: MacArthur causeway attacker Rudy Eugene was drugged — or cursed

Rudy Eugene was a sweet, well-mannered man who had recently tried to stop smoking pot but had never been violent, his girlfriend said.

By Dadege Green -

May 30, 2012

On the Saturday morning before he would make headlines for chewing off a man’s face –– before he would come to be known tragically as the “Miami Zombie”–– Rudy Eugene held his Bible and kissed his girlfriend goodbye.

Eugene’s on-again, off-again girlfriend said he woke her up at 5:30 a.m. to say he was going to meet with a “homeboy.” She said she found it strange he was rummaging the closet so early in morning. He didn’t name the friend or say where he was going.

He planted a kiss on her lips and said, “I love you.”

Shortly after, he left the central Broward apartment he shared with her.

“I told him be safe and I love you too. When he walked out the door I closed it, locked it and went back to sleep,” said the girlfriend, who spoke to The Miami Herald on Wednesday but asked that her name not be disclosed. She said that she thought it unusual that he was leaving the house so early, but didn’t press him on it.

An hour after he left, Eugene called her cell phone. “He called me and told me his car broke down. He said, “I’ll be home, but I’m going to be a little late. Then he said, I’m going to call you right back.” That was the last time Eugene’s girlfriend heard from him.

Around noon Saturday, she said she felt uneasy. She got into her car to search for Eugene, thinking he might still be stranded somewhere. She drove through North Miami and Miami Gardens, familiar neighborhoods Eugene frequented to visit with friends and family.

“I was worried. I couldn’t do anything. I just kept calling the phone,” she said. “I left messages saying, ‘Rudy, call me, I’m really worried.’”

She said Eugene never told her where he was going that morning, and she was surprised to hear reports that he’d been in South Beach in the hours before he attacked a homeless man, Ronald Poppo.

As a matter of fact, she said, the previous day he told her he didn’t want to go to South Beach because of the heavy police presence for Urban Beach Week. Eugene, who had been arrested in the past for possession of marijuana, told her he didn’t want to get arrested.

By Saturday evening she still had not heard from the man she calls “my baby, my heart.” She turned on the TV to watch the late night news and heard an unreal story: A nude man near the Miami Herald building pounced on a homeless man, chewing off his face. The man with pieces of flesh hanging from his teeth was shot dead by police.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy,’ she said. “I didn’t know that it was Rudy.”

All day Sunday she placed phone calls to friends asking if they’d seen Eugene and again she searched North Dade streets for her boyfriend.

At 11 a.m. Monday she got the call from a member of Eugene’s family.

The caller shouted terrible news into the phone: “Rudy’s dead, Rudy’s dead.”

“I immediately started to scream,’’ she said. “I don’t know when I hung up the phone, I was hysterical.”

But it was not until the afternoon, when she left her home to grieve with the rest of Eugene’s family in North Miami Beach, that she heard even worse news: The man everyone was calling the Miami Zombie was her boyfriend.

Her reaction: Utter disbelief. “That’s not Rudy, that’s not Rudy,” she remembered saying aloud in shock.

“I’ll never be the same,” she said.

The man being depicted by the media as a “face eater” or a “monster” is not the man she knew, she said. He smoked marijuana often, though had recently said he wanted to quit, but he didn’t use stronger recreational drugs and even refused to take over-the-counter medication for simple ailments like headaches, she said. He was sweet and well-mannered, she said.

Eugene’s girlfriend has her own theory on what happened that day. She believes Eugene was drugged unknowingly. The only other explanation, she said, was supernatural — that someone put a Vodou curse on him. The girlfriend, who unlike Eugene is not Haitian, said she has never believed in Vodou, until now.

“I don’t know how else to explain this,” she said.

She and Eugene met in 2007. While in traffic on a Miami street, Eugene pulled up next to her car and motioned for her to roll down her window.

She did. “I thought he was cute. I shouted out my number to him and he called me right then. We clicked immediately.”

Their five year- relationship hit rocky points over the years, and they would separate for months at a time, then reunite again. She said their problems were mostly “communication issues.”

She said Eugene worked at a car wash and wanted to own his own business some day.

During their time together, she said, Eugene would sit on the bed or on the couch in the evenings with her to read from his Bible. He carried it with him just about everywhere he went, she said, and often cited verses to friends and family.

“If someone was lost or didn’t know God, he would tell them about him,’’ she said. “He was a believer of God.”

She cries often, she said. Eugene’s clothes and shoes are still in her closet.

“Something happened out of the ordinary that day. I don’t want him to be labeled the Miami Zombie,” she said. “He was a person. I don’t want him to go down like that.”

He was never violent around her, she said.

But according to police records, Eugene became violent at least once in his past and was arrested on battery charges. In 2004, he threatened his mother and smashed furniture during a domestic dispute, according to records from the North Miami Beach Police Department.

The police report says Eugene “took a fighting stand, balled his hands into a fist” and threatened one of the officers who responded.

Police had to use a Taser to subdue him.“Thank God you’re here, he would have killed me,” Eugene’s mother, Ruth Charles, told officers, the police report says. She told the officers that before they arrived, her son had told her, “I’ll put a gun to your head and kill you.”

On Wednesday, Charles said that despite the incident, she and her son had a warm relationship.

“I’m his first love...he’s a nice kid...he was not a delinquent,” she told Miami Herald news partner CBS-4 at her Miami Gardens home.

Charles told the station she was speaking up for the first time to defend her dead son.

“Everybody says that he was a zombie, but I know he’s not a zombie; he’s my son,” she said.

She said the man who ate another human being’s face was just not the son she knew.

“I don’t know what they injected in him to turn him into the person who did what he did,” she said, making the motion of someone putting a syringe into the crook of her arm.

A friend of Eugene’s since they were teenagers told The Herald on Wednesday that Eugene had been troubled in recent years.

Joe Aurelus said Eugene told him he wanted to stop smoking pot, and that friends were texting Eugene Bible verses.

“I was just with him two weeks ago,”’ he said. They were at a friend’s house watching a movie and Eugene had a Bible in his hand.

“He was going through a lot with his family,” Aurelus said, and jumping from job to job.

“Rudy was battling the devil.”

Miami Herald staff writers Elinor J. Brecher and Scott Hiaasen contributed to this report.


Timeline: Here are the key moments of the attack on the MacArthur Causeway

By Dana Moskovitz -

May 30, 2012

The video is from a rooftop camera on the southwest corner of the six-story Herald building. On the right center of the screen is a Herald parking garage. Above it, right to left across the screen, is North Bayshore Drive, running between the Herald parking lot and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Diagonally across the bottom of the frame is the Metromover track. The roadway on the left is the MacArthur Causeway offramp heading west, toward the top of the screen, in the direction of the Arsht Center.

The scene of the attack, at the left bottom edge of the frame, is separated from the roadway by a concrete barrier. The view of the attack and the aftermath is blocked at times by palm trees and the Metromover track.

The video timestamp begins at 13:54 — 1:54 p.m. It’s a sunny day. Palm trees wave. Cars zip by on the causeway. The Herald parking lot sits empty. There is a person sitting in the corner of the video, near the walkway along the causeway.

13:54:49: The attacker, later identified as Rudy Eugene, staggers up to the man on the walkway, later identified as Ronald Poppo.

13:54:56: The encounter starts. A second later, a bicyclist rides by.

13:55:00: The attacker bends down. Shadows bob and weave. The attacker leans over the victim. Shadows and palm trees hide most of the view.

13:56:55: The Metromover goes by.

13:57:22: The attacker gets up and moves. A few seconds later, he rolls the victim down the walkway and continues pulling and kicking the him for several seconds.

13:57:47: The attacker stands over him and gets down on his knees, straddling the victim’s head. He seems to tug at the victim. The attacker starts punching the victim.

13:58:23: The attacker shifts the victim’s position, moving him over. He still straddles the victim and leans into him with his face. For several minutes, he comes up then leans forward and down into the victim.

13:59:37: The attacker stands up, grabs the victim and drags him further down the walkway. He drops the victim, walks around and tugs at the victim’s legs, trying to pull at something. The movement is hidden behind shadows and palm trees. But the two figures can be made out, one on the ground, the other leaning over him.

14:03:19: A second bicyclist rides by, slowing down as the bicycle nears where the attack is happening. A white car passes by and slows down, crawling by the attack scene. The bicyclist zips away, then turns around and comes back. The car moves on.

14:10:56: A third person with a bicycle walks by. A few seconds later, he gets on the bike and rides away.

14:11:28: A police car between the Herald parking lot and the Arsht Center moves toward the attack scene. It starts to get on the MacArthur Causeway but in the wrong direction.

14:11:47: Another bicyclist goes by.

14:11:58: The police car makes a U-turn and moves toward the attack scene.

14:12:06: A fourth bicyclist stops, then keeps going.

14:13:13: The police car arrives on the scene, driving the wrong way on the offramp. The officer gets out of the vehicle and walks around on the side of his car.

14:13:27: The officer draws his gun. The view of the shooting of the blocked by the Metromover track.

14:14:28: More police cars arrive.

14:15:20: The security camera zooms in on the attack scene.

14:16:16: The victim moves his legs.

14:19:44: The victim sits up. His hands and legs are covered in blood. He’s naked from the waist down. The attacker’s legs are view on the ground, but there is no movement.

14:22:50: Three paramedics appear and hop over the concrete barrier with a stretcher.

14:23:40: Paramedics drag the victim onto the stretcher.

14:24:07: The victim moves his arms and touches his head.

14:24:23: Paramedics unfold a neck brace and put it on Poppo.



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