On May 26, a cannibalistic ambush, one now entered into modern lore as a “zombie-like attack,” occurred on a Miami bridge that sent the southern city — and indeed, the nation — into a frenzy.
Rudy Eugene, seemingly crazed and stark naked, attacked homeless man Ronald Poppo, biting off pieces of his face and ripping out his eyes underneath an overpass on the MacArthur Causeway. The vicious attack, which was partially caught on a nearby surveillance camera, shocked viewers because of its randomness and gruesomeness. Eugene, 31, was shot dead by police at the scene, while Poppo was rushed to the hospital with much of his face torn off by the so-called Causeway Cannibal.
But after two months of recovery, the 65-year-old Poppo was healed enough to tell his side of the story. “He just ripped me to ribbons. He chewed up my face. He plucked out my eyes,” Poppo told Miami officers on July 19 in a recording that was provided to CBS Miami on Wednesday. “He mashed my face into the sidewalk. My face is all bent and mashed up. My eyes, my eyes got plucked out. He was strangling me in wrestling holds at the same time he was plucking my eyes out.”
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Poppo survived the attack but is now blind and disfigured. In a recently released recording, Poppo spoke to Miami officers about the attack, telling them Eugene attacked him without provocation or explanation. “What can provoke an attack of that type?” he asked. “I certainly didn’t curse at the guy or say anything mean or nasty to him.”
In fact, the mauling began with creepy tinges of romance. Poppo said Eugene approached him with the words “You’re going to be my wife, and this is going to be a lover’s concerto,” while singing the 1960s song “Lover’s Concerto.”
“For a very short amount of time, I thought he was a good guy,” Poppo said. “For a while he was acting nice. Then he got flustered” and “turned berserk.”
“He apparently didn’t have a good day at the beach and he — he was coming back. And I guess he took it out, took it out on me or something,” Poppo said. Before attacking him, Eugene supposedly told his victim: “‘You, me, buddy, and nobody else here’ … ‘I’m gonna — gonna kill you.’”
“He must have been souped up on something,” Poppo said, alleging that Eugene was frustrated because he hadn’t been able to “score” at the beach.
In a separate interview, Poppo told cops that Eugene accused him of taking his Bible, though Eugene did not have a Bible or any items with him. Officers found pieces of the Bible scattered along the roadway, along with Eugene’s clothing and driver’s license. Contrary to some media reports suggesting that Eugene and Poppo had previously met in a homeless shelter, Poppo said he has no recollection of meeting Eugene before the attack.
Poppo’s interview is the most detail that has been obtained from the police investigation, though authorities are being careful not to take it as fact. Poppo has already proved fuzzy on a few details: he told officers that Eugene was wearing a green shirt, but video from the scene shows that Eugene had stripped naked. Poppo also suggested that Eugene had gotten out of a car before attacking him, but the video shows that he had simply walked across the causeway.
Poppo, originally from New York City, has spent the past four decades in Florida, where he has been arrested many times on petty charges. After the attack, he underwent several surgeries and then was transferred to another medical center for long-term care, CBS Miami reported. The police department has officially closed its investigation, according to CBS Miami.