Ronald Poppo, the homeless man who lost most of his face in an attack by Miami resident Rudy Eugene in May, spoke of the incident with local police for the first time in July. Now, his recollections of the horrific crime have been released.
"[Eugene] attacked me. He just ripped me to ribbons. He chewed up my face," Poppo said in a police recorded interview on July 19th. "He plucked out my eyes. Basically that's all there is to say about it."
Poppo, a 65-year-old New York native who had been living on the streets of Miami for years, was attacked on May 26th by Eugene, 31, in an act that left police and investigators baffled.
Eugene approached Poppo while the latter slept on the side of a Miami freeway onramp that day in May. After beating Poppo senseless, Eugene proceeded to strip himself and Poppo naked and chew off most of the homeless man's face, including his nose. Poppo also lost both of his eyes.
Police responded to the incident after being alerted to the attack by drivers on the freeway. Eugene was shot dead at the scene after he refused police demands to stop attacking Poppo.
"He just started to scream, and was talking kind of funny talk for a while too," Poppo said in the interview. "He must have been souped up on something."
For weeks, police and the public assumed Eugene was high on some kind of mind-altering substance such as synthetic drug bath salts. However, after a toxicology report was done, Eugene tested negative for all drugs except for marijuana.
In a later interview, Poppo said Eugene accused him of stealing his Bible. Press reports have claimed Poppo and Eugene might have had previous contact at homeless shelters in the area, but Poppo denied ever meeting the man.
"What can provoke an attack of that type?" Poppo said. "I certainly didn't curse at the guy or say anything mean or nasty to him."
Although Poppo is now blind and severely disfigured, he never once raises his voice or appears overly emotional in the taped interviews. He even takes the time to give thanks to local police for their hand in keeping him alive.
"I thank the Miami Police Department for saving my life," Poppo said. "That's about the best I could sum it up as. If they didn't get there in a nick of time, I would definitely be in worse shape."
Although Eugene had not taken bath salts, the attack sparked a wave of other reports of synthetic drug attacks. Described as PCP on crack, bath salts makes users feel waves of paranoia, ecstasy and an inability to get hurt.
Several states, including New York, have since passed stricter laws against the drug that makes is more difficult to manufacture, sell and consume.
Abuse of bath salts in the U.S. has spiked in recent year, with just 300 emergency room cases in 2010 skyrocketing to over 6,000 last year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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