MIAMI (CN) – A homeless man whose face was eaten off by a naked and crazed man in broad daylight on Saturday is in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit, a worker in the Emergency Room of Jackson Memorial Hospital in downtown Miami told Courthouse News Tuesday.
THIS STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC DETAILS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.
Details of the bizarre story emerged slowly as hospital and police sources spoke to Courthouse News, not for attribution, and showed photos of the victim’s head almost devoid of skin, covered in blood.
The victim, a homeless man naked from the waist down, was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital on Saturday afternoon in critical condition, with up to 80 percent of his face missing, including his nose and an eyeball, police said.
An officer at the Miami Police Department downtown said Tuesday that the victim’s identity and medical condition will not be released pending notification of next of kin. But the Miami Herald reported that the victim is Ronald Poppo, 65, who has been homeless for 40 years. The Herald reported that Poppo lives under the crime scene, on MacArthur Causeway, in a tent city with other homeless people.
The attacker was identified on Monday night as Rudy Eugene, 31, of North Miami Beach.
Eugene, a divorcee, was shot dead by Miami police on Saturday after he refused to stop ripping apart and eating Poppo’s face in the pedestrian pathway on the busy causeway that was crammed with tourists in town for the long weekend.
Despite repeated rumors that the victim had died, the Jackson Memorial Hospital Emergency Room worker, who asked not to be identified, told Courthouse News on Tuesday that Poppo was in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit.
“He’s definitely going to be disfigured, but he will recover,” the source said.
A Miami-Dade County Police sergeant of 23 years who did not want to be named also spoke to Courthouse News Tuesday. He said drugs must have been involved in the tragedy that that played out like a zombie film 13 blocks north of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.
“This is an isolated incident,” the sergeant said. “But it goes to show, you don’t mix drugs with being psychotic. Not knowing the man, I think he was psychotic.”
Police and hospital workers showed grisly photos from the hospital and crime scene.
The only traces of humanity left on his countenance are a salt and peppered beard circling the bottom of the face, a nose-shaped bone protruding from the center, and a round eyeball without an eyelid floating in the upper right region of a gelatinous mass, everything cloaked in deep red.
Poppo’s face and pants were intact when witnesses alerted police to two naked men fighting on the Downtown Miami exit of the MacArthur Causeway, the main bridge connecting Miami Beach to the Miami mainland, just after 2 p.m. Saturday.
“What that fight was all about, we have no idea at this point,” Miami Police Det. Willie Moreno told WPLG Channel 10 news.
Witnesses told local media that say Eugene pulled off Poppo’s pants during the fight.
A surveillance camera at the nearby Miami Herald newspaper caught portions of the drama that backed up westbound traffic for hours on the main route for the 200,000-plus visitors attending Miami Beach’s annual Memorial Day hip-hop festival, renowned for the violence it brings to the famous beach.
In this video, a lone officer is seen arriving, and moments later two motionless naked pairs of legs jut out from behind the elevated train that crosses the causeway, obscuring the top half of the bodies.
Fraternal Order of Police President Armando Aguilar told reporters that when the officer arrived, he asked the cannibal to back away from the victim, but “he growled like a wild animal and kept eating at the man’s face.”
Witnesses corroborated that.
Larry Vega, who was riding his bicycle, told WSVN Channel 7 news, “He was ripping into his face with his teeth. He was ripping his skin, his neck. He had him held down, the guy couldn’t move really, and he was tearing into his flesh.”
The officer fired once at the deranged man, but it apparently had no effect on the ravenous attacker, forcing the officer to fire multiple rounds, killing him.
Aguilar told reporters, “Based on the information provided, our Miami police officer is a hero and saved a life.”