Miami cannibal attack

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Miami cannibal attack
Omni night skyline.jpg
Omni neighborhood, where the attack took place. The MacArthur Causeway is lit in the foreground.
Location Miami, Florida, United States
Coordinates 25°47′14″N 80°11′12″W / 25.78728°N 80.18656°W / 25.78728; -80.18656 (West terminus of the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, Florida)Coordinates: 25°47′14″N 80°11′12″W / 25.78728°N 80.18656°W / 25.78728; -80.18656 (West terminus of the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, Florida)
Date May 26, 2012 (2012-05-26)
1:55 – 2:13 p.m. (EDT)
Attack type
Deaths Rudy Eugene (shot)
Non-fatal injuries
Ronald Poppo
Perpetrator Rudy Eugene

On May 26, 2012, a nude assailant, Rudy Eugene, attacked and maimed Ronald Poppo, a homeless man, on the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, Florida, making headlines worldwide. During the 18-minute filmed encounter, Eugene 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 eyes.[1] As a result of the incident's shocking nature and subsequent worldwide media coverage, Eugene came to be dubbed the "Miami Zombie" and the "Causeway Cannibal".[2] The attack ended when Eugene was fatally shot by a Miami PD officer.

Although friends and family 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, with the last 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,[3] experts expressed doubt, since toxicology reports were only able to identify marijuana in Eugene's system, leaving the ultimate cause of his behavior unknown.[4]


On the morning of May 26, 2012, 31-year-old Rudy Eugene drove to Miami Beach, Florida, to Urban Beach Week.[5] His Haitian-flag-draped purple Chevrolet Caprice became disabled along the way. After spending 30–40 minutes at the site, as filmed on security video in and around the car,[5] he abandoned it about noon, and began to cross the 3-mile-long (4.8 km) span of the MacArthur Causeway, stripping himself of his clothing and disposing of his driver’s license as he advanced westward, according to eyewitnesses.[6] 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 believed had been recently consumed.[5]

Eugene—who eventually became completely naked, discarding even his shoes and his Bible at the crime scene[5]—encountered 65-year-old Ronald Poppo at approximately 1:55 pm. Poppo had been lying underneath the elevated Metromover people-mover viaduct 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.[7] It was at first believed that neither Eugene nor Poppo[2] 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.[8] A passing cyclist, Larry Vega, came upon the scene and alerted authorities via 9-1-1.[9] A few minutes later, Miami Police Department officer Jose Ramirez[10] arrived and, after doing a double take at the spectacle,[11] warned Eugene to desist from attacking Poppo. Eugene ignored the officer's warnings and, instead, reportedly growled at him, then resumed biting his victim.[9] 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 was captured by a security camera on The Miami Herald building.[12] Surveillance video shows that the attack continued for 18 minutes before help arrived.[11]


Poppo was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition, with 75–80% of his face above the beard missing[9][11] and his left eye gouged out.[13] He underwent facial reconstruction surgeries that took months to complete, but he remained permanently disfigured and blind.[14] To help with the costs, a fund was set up and has collected $100,700 since July 17, 2012.[15] Poppo 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 to 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.[16]

Poppo lost his eyebrows, his nose, parts of his forehead and cheek, and his left eye, and was left totally blind due to the damage to his remaining right eye.[17] He underwent numerous surgeries to repair the damage to his face. After rehabilitation, he put on 50 pounds, and relearned how to dress, feed himself, shower, and shave. He was granted permission to stay at the medical facility indefinitely.[18]

As a result of media attention,[19] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement saying that the "CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)."[20]

Inconclusive toxicology investigation[edit]

Although the autopsy revealed no human flesh in Eugene's stomach, a number of undigested pills were discovered that have not been identified.[21] 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 cannabis.[5][22] Authorities did not necessarily find the negative results conclusive; Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti 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."[23]


Rudy Eugene
Rudy Eugene mugshot Miami-Dade County.tiff
Eugene in 2009.
Born (1981-02-04)February 4, 1981
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Died May 26, 2012(2012-05-26) (aged 31)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Other names Causeway Cannibal[24]
Miami Cannibal[25]
Miami Zombie[26]

Rudy Eugene (February 4, 1981[27] – May 26, 2012)[28] was born at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida.[27] 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.[29] As a child he attended the Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church with his families on most Sundays.[29] Eugene attended North Miami Beach High School in the 10th and 11th grades,[30] and he played on its football team in the late 1990s.[31][32] At the age of 17, he transferred to North Miami High School.[33] After graduating, Eugene acquired money from such sources as selling CDs and jobs at McDonald’s and in telemarketing. His last known employment was washing cars at a local automobile dealership.[34] Eugene had expressed interest in establishing his own mobile car wash business.[34][35]

Eugene's marriage, from 2005 to 2008, ended in divorce, with his wife reporting that there had been domestic violence in the relationship. The divorce was granted on January 8, 2008, and there were no children from their relationship.[36] Eugene was estranged from his ex-wife until his death.[37][38]

Criminal history[edit]

Eugene had been arrested eight times since he was 16, with the first arrest being for an assault in 1997.[36][39] On February 25, 2004, Eugene broke a table, smashed items around the house, and pushed his mother out of the kitchen. Afterward, his mother 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.[40] The remaining charges were mainly related to marijuana, which he had expressed a desire to quit.[41] His final arrest was in September 2009.[30][31]


Ronald Edward Poppo
Ronald Poppo, 2004 Mugshot.jpg
Poppo in 2004.
Born (1947-05-17) May 17, 1947 (age 71)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.

Ronald Edward Poppo (born May 17, 1947)[6] was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Manhattan's prestigious Stuyvesant High School, where he was a member of the Latin Club and worked in the guidance office.[42] A former classmate reported that, after high school, Poppo enrolled at nearby City College but he dropped out in late 1966.[43] Poppo would become homeless in early 1976.[44] 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.[44]

At the time of the attack, Poppo's family—including his daughter[43]—had not heard from him in over 30 years.[44] During that time, they assumed that Poppo was dead and suspected that he had killed himself.[45] They were shocked to learn he was still alive at the time of the incident.[42] Poppo has since completed treatment and was last residing in a Medicaid facility. He received nutritional and occupational therapy and took up the guitar.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Luscombe in Miami (30 May 2012). "Face-eating victim 'will recover' from horrific Miami attack". London. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  2. ^ a b "Friends of cannibal Rudy Eugene say he was not 'a face-eating zombie monster' as police reveal first picture of homeless victim in bizarre Miami attack". Herald Sun. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Eugene's Friends Recall His Last Words To Them Before Causeway Attack". Miami CBS Local. May 31, 2012. Miami Police believe the 31-year-old was under the influence of something much more powerful than marijuana the day he walked on the MacArthur Causeway, shedding his clothes along the way. Authorities believe LSD, or possibly a designer drug known as "bath salts", may have been in Eugene's system when he chewed the face of his victim, Ronald Poppo. 
  4. ^ "Medical examiner rules out bath salts in Miami face-chewing attack". Associated Press. June 27, 2012. Lab tests detected only marijuana in the system of a Florida man shot while chewing another man's face, the medical examiner said Tuesday, ruling out other street drugs including the components typically found in the stimulants known as bath salts. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Jim DeFede (June 6, 2012). "Exclusive: Causeway Cannibal Had Bible, Recently Smoked Pot When He Attacked". Miami CBS Local 4. 
  6. ^ a b Kennedy, Helen (30 May 2012). "Victim of 'Miami Zombie' attack graduated from Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School". Daily News. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Victim in flesh-eating attack on MacArthur Causeway had hard life on Miami streets". The Palm Beach Post. 30 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Bryan, Susannah (July 16, 2012). "'Zombie' Rudy Eugene and Ronald Poppo met before Miami 'Causeway Cannibal' attack, friend says". WPTV. 
  9. ^ a b c "Miami's 'growling cannibal' named as Rudy Eugene, 31". BBC News. 30 May 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Victim in flesh-eating attack on MacArthur Causeway had hard life on Miami streets". Miami Herald. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c 05/29/2012 9:06 am Updated: 06/01/2012 3:52 pm (2012-05-29). "Rudy Eugene Identified As Naked Miami Man Who Chewed Victim's Face (VIDEO, PHOTOS)". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  12. ^ "Security video shows entire Miami 'zombie' attack". CNN News. 30 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.  Post by: CNN news blog editor Mallory Simon, CNN's Adriana Hauser, CNN's Brad Lendon
  13. ^ "Face-chewing victim will need months of treatment, long recovery". Fox News. 30 May 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  14. ^ "CBS Local "Victim Of Cannibal Attack Faces Surgery, Long Recovery"". 
  15. ^ Armao, Anthony (July 17, 2012). "Ronald Poppo Fund Raises $110,700 For The Miami Face-Eating Victim (DETAILS)". Global Grind. 
  16. ^ "Exclusive: For The First Time, Cannibal Victim Speaks". Miami CBS Local. August 8, 2012. 
  17. ^ Richard Luscombe in Miami (30 May 2012). "Face-eating victim 'will recover' from horrific Miami attack | World news". London: Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Stokes, Trevor (1 June 2012). "No, the zombie apocalypse isn't coming, assures the CDC". NBC News. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Campbell, Andy (1 June 2012). "Zombie Apocalypse:CDC Denies Existence of Zombies Despite Cannibal Incidents". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  21. ^ "Rudy Eugene Autopsy: No Human Flesh, But Undigested Pills In Stomach". Huffpost Miami. June 9, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Medical examiner rules out bath salts in Miami face-chewing attack". Associated Press. June 27, 2012. 
  23. ^ Susannah Bryan (July 6, 2012). "Even experts question claim that Rudy Eugene was not on bath salts". Sun Sentinel. 
  24. ^ Kennedy, Helen (30 May 2012). "Chewed-face victim graduated from Stuyvesant – New York Daily News". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  25. ^ Kennedy, Helen (30 May 2012). "Victim of 'Miami Zombie' attack graduated from Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School". Daily News. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  26. ^ Elinor Brecher; Frances Robles; Melissa Sanchez (29 May 2012). "Victim of 'Miami Zombie' is a longtime homeless man". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  27. ^ a b "North Miami Beach Police Department Incident/Investigation Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  28. ^ Weber, Katherine (31 May 2012). "'Miami Zombie Attack' One of Many Violent Cases Involving Bath Salts". The Christian Post. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  29. ^ a b Burch, Audra D.S. (July 14, 2012). "The unraveling of Rudy Eugene, aka the causeway face attacker". The Miami Herald. 
  30. ^ a b "Who Was Causeway Cannibal Rudy Eugene?". CBS Miami. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  31. ^ a b "Rudy Eugene allegedly attacked Ronald Poppo, eating his face". Today's THV. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Ronald Poppo Named As 'Zombie' Rudy Eugene's Miami Cannibal Attack Victim". International Business Times. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  33. ^ Elinor Breacher; Nadege Green (1 June 2012). "Troubled lives clashed in 'Miami zombie' face-eating attack". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  34. ^ a b "Victim in flesh-eating attack on MacArthur Causeway had hard life on Miami streets". The Miami Herald. 29 May 2012. p. 2. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  35. ^ "Girlfriend: Face-eating man was drugged — or cursed". The Miami Herald. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  36. ^ a b "Miami 'zombie-like' face-chewing suspect Rudy Eugene was 'a beautiful person,' former classmate says". WPTV. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  37. ^ WPLG Miami–Ft. Lauderdale "New video of face-eating attack released, Victim identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo" Terrell Forney, Published On: May 29, 2012 10:43:57 AM EDT Updated On: May 30, 2012 12:53:16 PM EDT "New video of face-eating attack released". Local 10. Retrieved May 29, 2012. 
  38. ^ Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET (2010-04-07). "Naked attacker who chewed man's face allegedly had history of violence". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  39. ^ Kennedy, Helen (28 May 2012). "Real-life Hannibal Lecter who ate face of naked homeless man identified as Rudy Eugene, 31". New York: NYDailyNews. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Rudy Eugene to Mother In 2004: "I'll Put a Gun to Your Head and Kill You"". Miami NewTimes. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  41. ^ "Rudy Eugene identified as man shot dead by police while eating another man's face". National Post. Retrieved May 29, 2012. 
  42. ^ a b 05/31/2012 1:31 pm Updated: 05/31/2012 6:41 pm (2012-05-31). "Rudy Eugene Victim Ronald Poppo's Family Didn't Know He Was Alive". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  43. ^ a b Mcshane, Larry; Cunningham, Jennifer H. (31 May 2012). "N.J. woman stunned to discover absentee dad was homeless man victimized by cannibal in Florida". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved May 31, 2012. 
  44. ^ a b c Breacher, Elinor (31 May 2012). "Victim in MacArthur Causeway attack among the 'chronic homeless'". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  45. ^ Helen Kennedy & Michael Sheridan (May 31, 2012). ""I just thought he'd killed himself,' she says, after not seeing Ronald Poppo for 30 years." Sister of Miami cannibal's victim thought her brother died years ago". New York Daily News. 
  46. ^ "Two years after 'causeway cannibal attack,' where is Ronald Poppo now?". WPBF. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 

External links[edit]