Police Looking for More Witnesses in Face-Chewing Attack

Alleged attacker, victim both identified in gruesome mauling in Miami

Miami Police were urging more witnesses to come forward in the police shooting of a man who mauled another man's face on a pedestrian bridge near the MacArthur Causeway over the weekend.

The victim was identified as Ronald Poppo, sources told NBC 6.

Authorities hope witnesses can fill in the blanks from the gruesome scene where they say a man, identified by authorities as 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, savagely attacked Poppo's face and growled at a police officer when was he asked to stop.

The attack happened around 2 p.m. Saturday in the area of the Biscayne Boulevard exit ramp from the MacArthur Causeway. Police say they encountered two men fighting, and an officer was forced to shoot Eugene, who was naked, when he refused to stop.

Poppo, 65, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

Miami-Dade Police said they are trying to find the next of kin for Poppo, who is homeless, but have not yet located them.

Eugene’s criminal history from the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts showed he went to jail in 2008 for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana, and again later that year for selling and possessing marijuana.

In addition, he was arrested on four more charges between 2004 and 2007, including battery, selling merchandise on school property, possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana and trespassing after a warning, the records show.

Armando Aguilar, president of Miami's Fraternal Order of Police, said the victim had up to 80 percent of his face mauled and said the suspect growled at the officer who responded to the scene.

"Seventy-five to 80 percent of his face was missing, and he was actually swallowing pieces of the man's face," Aguilar said. "He growled at him like a wild animal and kept eating at the man's face."

His wild behavior was symptomatic of excited delirium, Aguilar said. The disorder is usually drug-related and can incite violence, unexpected strength and even hyperthermia.

Parts of the confrontation were caught by a surveillance camera from The Miami Herald building, which overlooks the crime scene.

Miami-Dade court records list two dozen arrests for Poppo from 1978 through 2005. Eight were for felonies including aggravated assault, aggravated battery and burglary. But no action was taken on most of them, and Poppo was only convicted on one of the felony charges, for resisting an officer with violence in 2005, the records say.

For a 1978 felony charge, criminal mischief, he was acquitted by reason of insanity, according to the records.

Poppo was convicted of misdemeanors such as drinking in public (for separate 2002 incidents), disorderly intoxication (2000), and carrying a concealed weapon (1995), court records say.

Barry Alston said that he spoke with Poppo on several occasions and often saw him at Camillus House.

“I know that he’s a peaceful person, and that he doesn’t bother anybody," said Alston, who is also homeless. "All he was, he liked to drink his beer. He was somewhat of an alcoholic. But he was a real nice guy.”

Aguilar said the officer may have saved Poppo's life by shooting the attacker before he could harm him further.

"There's no doubt in my mind. The man would be dead right now," Aguilar said.

Police urged any residents or passersby who witnessed the incident to contact them at 305-471-TIPS. 

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