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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Was Face Eating Attack Drugs or Something More Sinister?...


Rudy Eugene
What would make an otherwise “sweet and well-mannered man,” who friends called “preacher,” because he liked carrying his Bible and quoting it, completely snap, to the point of tearing off all his clothes on a busy thoroughfare, and viciously attacking a helpless elderly homeless man that came into his path; pummeling him senseless, gauging out an eye out and chewing off most of his face?

It wasn't like an attack that escalated from a robbery.  Who would try to rob a homeless guy?

It wasn’t that the man had ran off with his wife or girlfriend, or had killed a relative or friend, as we often hear prompts other men to snap in the local news. 

It wasn’t even someone who was making his life a living hell. 

It was a random man, who he had never met before and was apparently sleeping harmlessly underneath some shade trees, where he was hiding from the piercing hot afternoon sun, just a couple of days after apparently having been kicked out of a parking lot at Jungle Island, where he had been sleeping. 

As most have probably seen or heard, surveillance cameras captured the 31-year-old aggressor, Rudy Eugene, slamming the victim, identified as Ronald Poppo, against the cement, inexplicably removing his pants and punching him repeatedly in the head before straddling him and starting to chew on his face. 

I can’t even imagine the pain, shock and horror that the 65-year-old victim, who had been roaming the streets of South Florida for decades and probably endured his share of beatings and assaults in the past, was in. 

Even if he was drunk, which could be why he appears lethargic, he must have been in excruciating pain. 

And in his daze and confusion, it all must have seemed like a bad nightmare.

Think about it, there he was underneath a man half his age and much stronger, who for some unknown reason, was in a state of uncontrolled rage, savagely beating him and pinning him to the ground while biting his face.

Just the thought of how helpless he must have felt makes my stomach turn.

Ronald Poppo
When police arrived almost 20 minutes after the attack began, and after a cyclist that came across the gory scene flagged down a police officer, Eugene is said to have growled at the officer with Poppo’s flesh in his mouth and refused to stop gnawing at the older man’s face.  The officer fired off about five shots and killed him.  

Blood was splattered everywhere on and around the two men, who lay side by side, one completely naked and the other naked from the waist down and his face unrecognizable, when it all ended.  

The good Samaritan cyclist described it as "a blob of blood."

It must have been surreal sight for the biker, a bus driver that got a good look as she drove by and hysterically called 911, and even veteran officers and paramedics, who say it was probably one of the most disturbing scenes they have ever encountered. 

But, the question that lingers is why?  What triggered this rage?  What provokes a man to even chew on another person like a wild animal or worse, a cannibal?

Was it drugs? That seems to be the logical conclusion and one that many of Eugene’s friends and family, and even police and officials, appear to favor, as they try to make sense of an otherwise senseless, brutal and grotesque attack. 

Bath salts, LSD, synthetic marijuana or other hallucinogen drugs have been mentioned as possible culprits and experts have been interviewed in the press about their effects.

However, not everyone is convinced.  

Could Eugene have had deeper psychological problems?  Although, his criminal record was mostly for minor offenses, there were at least a couple of incidents involving violent outbursts, including against his mother and an ex-wife.      

Some have even suggested, the former high school football player, who friends say would read the Bible nightly and had recently said he wanted to commit his life to God and give up smoking marijuana, which apparently had been his plague for years, was under the influence of a supernatural spirit.

One of Eugene’s friends writes on Facebook, “Open your eyes people, demons do walk among us.  No drug did that.  He had to be possessed.”

Another one writes, “I known Rudy since the 6th grade… My dawg was always a happy and funny dude. He was a genuine man. It could happen to anyone of us. I was with him Thursday that same week prior to this incident and the last thing he said to me is, "I want to change my life, and get right with God.”

His on and off again girlfriend for the past five years says either Eugene was drugged unknowingly at Miami Beach Memorial Day Urban Weekend, where he had gone early that morning, or someone put a voodoo spell on him.  She said she has never believed in Voodoo, until now. 

“I don’t know how else to explain this,” she told a local reporter.

It is something that is hard to explain.  And, trying to make sense of it from the outside without knowing the mental state of the man who has been dubbed the “Miami Zombie,” may be an exercise in futility.

But, there was obviously some evil deep within him.  As his Facebook friend stated, he was fighting internal demons.  Whatever they may have been. 

He had recently confided to friends that he was having “family issues,” which according to close relatives, may have started many years ago when he found out his stepfather, who raised him from the time that he was two-years-old, was not his biological dad. 

When he set out to look for his father, his mother didn’t even have a picture to show him.  In any case, his mother and stepfather believed he was dead.

Then, when his mother got divorced, it was another blow to Eugene, who some have said at times felt like everything was stacking up against him.

He numbed his pain with marijuana.

Even so, this is a man who is said to have grown up going to church on Sundays and served on the church choir.  Friends say he took his Bible everywhere and openly shared it with others.

What happened?

As I reflected on the answer, I couldn't help but be reminded of the story of Legion in the Gospel of Mark. 

It was a man who was tormented by many demons and was living naked in a cemetery.  St. Mark writes that the man was so out of control that not even chains could contain him:   

The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.  In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. 

When Jesus meets him, He drives the demons out of him and sends them onto a herd of swine, who rushed into the sea and drown.  

While it might be a stretch to think that Eugene was inflicted with the same torments as Legion, I think it is safe to say, as this case proves, that evil is real and in the human condition, there lies a darkness that is constantly challenging us from within. 

Pope John Paul II once wrote, "He who does not believe in the devil, does not believe in the Gospel."

Meanwhile, Poppo had his own internal demons.  He had been living in the streets for about forty years.  In fact, his family thought he was dead.
He had checked out of what most consider a “normal life” and his family didn’t even know why.

Stuyvesant High Class of '64
In fact, he had been a smart student growing up with a bright future.  Poppo attended and graduated from an elite high school in New York.  He went on to college, although he dropped out after two years. 

He got married and had a daughter, which ironically, after his divorce, he never saw again.  Like Eugene, she was two-years-old when her father left her life and disappeared. 

He started living in the streets and apparently became an alcoholic, although the order is not quite clear.  Over the years, he had been arrested at least two dozen times, mostly for drinking and sleeping in public, and had been treated for a gunshot wound once in 1976.   

Fifteen years ago, his daughter tried to find him and even hired a police officer friend to help her.  They ran into a dead end after dead end and finally determined he was probably dead.  

While most of us would think, what a sad existence, that is the life Poppo chose to live; alone in the streets, without his family, his daughter or the old friends from his prep school that also tried searching for him over the years.  He was invisible and maybe that is what he wanted. 

It makes me wonder, how many other anonymous and faceless (pardon the pun) Poppos there are roaming the streets of Miami, or other major cities across America?  How many had "normal" lives and now find themselves downtrodden and living in obscurity.   

Unfortunately, Poppo was found on a sunny Saturday afternoon on the MacArthur Causeway in Downtown Miami and the result was tragic.

Doctors say, if he survives the infections, Poppo’s road to recovery may take years and multiple operations. 

And, while it's hard to imagine that this despicable act of evil can have an upside, but, maybe this will give him a chance to reconcile with the many people who he may have hurt by disappearing, including a 44-year-old daughter, who he hardly knows.

As for Eugene, it is ironic that one of his last entries on Facebook, quoted beginning of Psalm 59, which states, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my Lord; defend me from those who rise up against me," and then adds, "For the Lord God is my defense.”

Only God knows if his tragic ending was his deliverance from those enemies rising within him…

     


4 comments:

Robert said...

A quote I think of when we see people commit horrific deeds such as these or see homeless people wandering in the streets:

"There but for the grace of God go I"

Carlos Espinosa said...

Amen. Thanks.

Fr Levi said...

I'm not an exorcist but of course I have done some reading on the subject. Full blown demonic possession is rare, but it happens. Usually the person has done something to invite it in some way. But it is hard to imagine someone going from 'zero to a hundred' like this ...

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Father.
It really is a bit mind boggling for us to even begin to comprehend.