Miami Face-Eating Attack Lasted 18 Agonizing Minutes

Surveillance video shows gory face-eating attack on homeless man.

ByABC News
May 30, 2012, 11:00 AM

MIAMI May 30, 2012— -- The grisly assault on a homeless man whose face was eaten by a deranged assailant lasted for 18 agonizing minutes and was captured on nearby surveillance cameras.

Rudy Eugene, who authorities suspect may have been high on a dangerous new street drug known as "bath salts," had to be shot four times by a police officer to halt the cannibalistic attack.

The victim, Ronald Poppo, 65, is in critical condition after police say 75 percent of his face was devoured by Eugene.

Footage taken by security cameras at the nearby Miami Herald building show most of the 18 gory minutes of Eugene's growling and vicious attack on Poppo when Eugene ate the man's nose, mouth and eyes.

Eugene had a criminal past and has the notoriety of being the first person ever tasered by the North Miami Police Department after he was arrested for beating and threatening to kill his mother in 2008. Police told ABC affiliate WPLG that they had to taser him three times to subdue him.

"He wasn't cooperative, wouldn't follow orders, very belligerent," said Detective Mike Pons. "He had that thousand-yard stare, staring right into you, not assessing or understanding what the commands were."

According to WPLG, police believed that Eugene may have been mentally ill, but according to the judge who handled the case was never referred to the court's mental illness diversion program.

Eugene was found guilty, but the court suspended his sentence citing in court records "the defendant is not likely to engage in a criminal course of conduct."

That prediction proved to be horribly wrong last Saturday. Police say Eugene, 31, started his day in South Beach where he dumped his car. It is believed that he may have been cruising the streets for the popular Urban Beach Weekend.

He then walked across a causeway that connects the popular neighborhood with downtown Miami when he began to strip his clothes off. The footage picks up and shows an agitated Eugene naked and bent over a second figure believed to be Poppo.

Poppo was homeless and lived near the area where the attack occurred. Poppo tries to fight back as Eugene tries to take off his clothes. As the assault begins, the surveillance video shows a few passerbys beginning to notice what is going on. Police say they received at least five calls from witnesses.

When a police officer, who has been described as traumatized by the incident, arrives on scene, he is seemingly casually getting out of his patrol car until he notices what is going on. The officer almost immediately draws his gun. The cop ordered Eugene to stop the attack, but Eugene ignored his command and even growled back at the officer. It's unclear when the officer fired because the video is obstructed by a metro commuter train line, but it eventually took four bullets to make Eugene stop his brutal assault.

It's still unclear what triggered the violent attack. Police and many in the medical community believe that drugs, in particular "bath salts," may have played a role. "Bath salts" have become increasingly popular in the Miami party scene, and they can trigger extremely violent outbursts. But police have found no evidence of drugs at the scene, and toxicology results will take several weeks to come back in.