Victim of ‘Miami Zombie’ attack graduated from Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School
Video shows Ronald Poppo’s face was eaten for 18 minutes
Comments (49)BY HELEN KENNEDY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 2:51 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 2:51 PM
Ronald Poppo in his 1964 Stuyvesant High School yearbook photo and at right in a Florida police mugshot.
The homeless drifter whose face was partially eaten by a real-life Hannibal Lecter turns out to be a brainy 1964 graduate of New York’s elite Stuyvesant High School.
And as if the details of the “Miami Zombie” attack couldn’t get any more gruesome, new video released Wednesday reveals that the unconscious victim’s face was chewed and eaten for 18 minutes — and that he awoke just as horrified paramedics were taking him away.
Ronald Poppo, 65, was in the Latin Club and worked in the guidance office at Stuyvesant before his life hit the skids, his yearbook shows. According to his long record of petty arrests, he spent the last four decades in Florida.
Cops have also started piecing together the last hours of Rudy Eugene, 31, the “Causeway Cannibal” who was shot dead by cops when he refused to stop tearing away chunks of Poppo’s face.
Eugene’s last day started at 2 a.m. Saturday at his girlfriend’s house, where he suddenly took off after behaving oddly, rifling through both his clothes and hers, CBS Miami reported.
He told a friend he was going to Miami Beach to check out Urban Beach Weekend, a huge Memorial Day party drawing people from all over.
Cops later found and towed his purple Chevy sedan, which was parked illegally. Eugene had apparently abandoned it because it didn’t start.
He then appears to have started walking back across the 3-mile causeway to the mainland in the hot sun, shedding clothes as he went.
Cops found his clothes and driver’s license strewn along the causeway like fairy-tale breadcrumbs.
About 2 p.m., Eugene stopped right by the Miami Herald building, where a security camera caught him crouching over Poppo, who was reclining in the shade of an overpass.
Brief clips of the security video had been released earlier. But the full video reveals just how long the grisly attack took, and how many people biked, drove or walked by without stopping.
Details in the video are obscured by waving palm fronds and the overpass, but it shows a naked Eugene rolling Poppo’s body a few feet and then taking his pants off.
He appears to punch and manhandle Poppo’s limp body for a few minutes, then drags it a few feet further — to a spot largely obscured from the camera.
During this time, Eugene chewed off 80% of Poppo’s face, tearing away his nose, mouth, eyes and cheeks.
“He was actually swallowing pieces of the man's face,” said Armando Aguilar, president of Miami's Fraternal Order of Police
Police say five passers-by called 911 to report the attack.
Eighteen minutes after Eugene first stumbled on Poppo, the video shows Miami police officer Jose Rivera pulling up and emerging casually from his patrol car to what he must have thought was a routine call.
He takes one good look at the bloody scene and immediately draws his gun.
Police said he ordered Eugene to stop chewing, but Eugene just growled at him, so Rivera shot him. That didn’t stop him, so Rivera shot him three more times, police say.
What was wrong with Eugene remains a mystery. The coroner is conducting toxicology tests to see what drugs he might have taken.
Many in law enforcement suspect the new synthetic street drug called “bath salts,” which creates a speedy, amphetamine-like high that can trigger extreme violence.
Police in Columbus, Ohio, say two men believed to be on the new drug were shot by cops in separate incidents in just the last week.
The Miami Herald video shows that paramedics arrived two minutes after Rivera to find a naked dead man and an unconscious man with a pulpy red mask for a face.
As paramedics began tending to him, he awoke and began to writhe.
Paramedics tend to the victim's facial injuries and carefully place him on a stretcher. As they carry him from the walkway where the attack took place to the ambulance, he starts to wave his arms around and has to be strapped down.
Poppo remains in Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Authorities have been unable to find his next of kin.
Eugene was known to the North Miami Police Department cops as the first person they ever Tasered. That incident occurred in 2008, when cops took him in for beating and threatening to kill his mother.
Police told WPLG-TV in Miami they had to Taser him three times to subdue him.
"He wasn't cooperative, wouldn't follow orders, very belligerent," Detective Mike Pons remembered.
"He had that thousand-yard stare, staring right into you, not assessing or understanding what the commands were."
Eugene was found guilty, but the court suspended his sentence saying he was “not likely to engage in” in any further criminal conduct.