On Saturday, May 26th the late Rudy Eugene became known as the ‘Miami zombie‘. He was seen chewing on the face of 65-year-old homeless man Ronald Poppo. Eyewitnesses described the scene as a bloody one. But Eugene’s girlfriend and brother describe him as much more humane.
Eugene’s girlfriend, who wished to remain unidentified, told the Miami Herald that he was a sweet, well-mannered man who had never been violent. She feels that Eugene was either drugged or the victim of voodoo. The girlfriend, who unlike Eugene is not Haitian, said she has “never believed in [voodoo], until now.”
Eugene’s mother also expressed surprise that her son was “The Face Eater.” “Everybody says that he was a zombie, but I know he’s not a zombie; he’s my son,” she said.
But the officers who were at the scene while Eugene was ripping off Poppo’s face with his teeth would have to disagree. As Eugene growled at them with flesh hanging from his mouth, they did not see the harmless young man who allegedly always carried a Bible, didn’t drink much, or use hard drugs, as he was described by his mother and girlfriend.
“Seventy-five to eighty percent of [Poppo's] face was missing, and [Eugene] was actually swallowing pieces of the man’s face,” said Armando Aguilar, president of Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police. “He growled like a wild animal and kept eating at the man’s face…The forehead was just bone. No nose, no mouth,”
Doctors now are saying that Poppo has to worry more about the risk of infection that may have passed from Eugene’s mouth. ”The human mouth is basically filthy,” said Dr. Seth Thaller, the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.
The 65-year-old’s eye was gouged out and he will be permanently disfigured. Poppo’s mental state will determine whether or not he will be considered for a facial transplant and how doctors will move forward. He has been homeless for over three decades and his family believed him to be dead. Doctors want to make sure that Poppo has the necessary psychological care to deal with the events that took place on Saturday.
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said ”I think the patient has to be able to cope with the injury and the trauma and needs to figure out what has happened. It often takes them weeks to understand what has happened. “
Police continue to look for more witnesses to piece together the events of that fateful morning on the MacArthur Causeway off-ramp. ”Where’s the car, where are his clothes? We don’t know where his stuff is,” the brother said. “How did he get there naked in the middle of the daytime and nobody saw him?”