A Day in the Life of Miami’s Naked Face-Eating Zombie

Police and journalists try to figure out how Rudy Eugene, fatally shot while attempting to eat another man's face, spent the last day of his life

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Rudy Eugene didn’t wake up on May 26 expecting to dine on human flesh. Instead, the 31-year-old Miami man, whom police shot dead later that day as he attempted to chew off another man’s face, spent his last morning on earth cruising around Miami Beach in his purple Chevrolet Caprice sedan, according to an investigation by CBS4. The beachfront was packed with Memorial Day partiers, and Eugene was heading in from a friend’s house in northwest Miami to join in the revelry.

When Eugene’s car broke down, however, it appears that he abandoned the vehicle and decided to walk back to Miami, some three miles across the MacArthur Causeway. It was a hot day, with temperatures in the 90s, and police say Eugene began to strip off his clothes, scattering them and his driver’s license along the causeway. As he made it across the bridge just before 2 p.m., wandering along beneath Miami’s Metromover elevated-train system, police say he spotted 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, a homeless man who was dozing in the shade provided by the train tracks.

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It’s still unclear what caused Eugene’s cannibalistic attack on Poppo, but the gruesome assault lasted 18 minutes, as captured on a surveillance camera mounted on the Miami Herald’s downtown headquarters. A naked Eugene is seen just out of the frame, wrestling with Poppo to try to strip off his clothes. He then launched a vicious, pit-bull-like attack on the homeless man, tearing at the man’s eyes, nose and mouth. Police say more than 75% of Poppo’s face was gnawed off in the attack that has garnered Eugene nicknames like the Miami Zombie, and the Causeway Cannibal.

Summoned by passing cyclists, Miami police officer Jose Rivera drove to the scene and, according to surveillance footage, fatally shot Eugene within a minute of arriving. Rivera drew his gun and fired at least four times after Eugene refused to stop his attack. “[He] just stood, his head up like that, with pieces of flesh in his mouth. And he growled,” cyclist Larry Vega told the Miami Herald. Eugene died at the scene.

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Eugene, a former North Miami Beach football player, worked a series of odd jobs around Miami over the past decade. He was a known petty criminal, with a dozen or so arrests in the past 10 years, usually for minor drug offenses. He was arrested in 2008 after threatening to kill his mother and proved difficult to subdue — police had to taser him three times before placing him under arrest, ABC News reported.

His victim has a checkered past as well. Poppo is an alcoholic drifter who has been homeless since at least 1983, when he was first picked up for sleeping in public. Since then he has been arrested on dozens of small offenses, mainly for public intoxication and trespassing. But the day he was attacked by the face-eating Eugene, he was bothering no one, catching a simple afternoon nap. Poppo is now resting in a Miami hospital, in critical condition but expected to survive.

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