Saturday, April 21, 2018
Public safety

911 tape: Prior to attack, 'Miami Zombie' swung from a light pole 'like Tarzan'

In the minutes before his bizarre face-eating attack on a homeless man, Rudy Eugene was seen swinging naked on a light pole along the MacArthur Causeway "acting like Tarzan," according to a motorist who called police.

The call, 20 minutes before Eugene was shot and killed by a Miami police officer who found him chewing the face off 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, was one of two new emergency calls released by police Tuesday.

The new information provides a fuller account of the sequence of events leading to the lengthy May 26 attack, which was captured in part by security cameras on the Miami Herald building.

Eugene beat Poppo and stripped off his pants before gnawing on the homeless man's face in an attack that lasted about 18 minutes, the Herald security video shows. Eugene was shot by Miami police Officer Jose Ramirez about seven minutes after the officer was dispatched to the scene.

But the initial calls to police about Eugene gave no hint of the grotesque tableau the officer finally discovered.

Police got the first call at 1:53 p.m. Saturday from a motorist who reported a "completely naked" man swinging from a light pole along the causeway "acting like Tarzan," according to a recording released Tuesday.

About a minute later, a second caller reported a man "naked as a jaybird" alongside the road.

The Herald's security cameras captured Eugene walking naked east on the sidewalk along the causeway before stopping beneath the Metromover train tracks — a shady spot where Poppo was known to doze. The time on the Herald's security tape is 1:55 p.m., but this time might not be synchronized with the times recorded by police dispatchers on the 911 calls.

Eugene appeared to beat Poppo for several minutes before he rolled the homeless man along the sidewalk, tore off his pants and hunched over Poppo's torso, the tape shows.

The most alarming call to police came at 2:04 p.m. from a passing bus driver who saw Eugene beating up Poppo.

"It's a naked man beating another man, beating him, on the MacArthur Causeway, like toward the Miami Herald. … He's gonna kill that man, I promise you, okay?" the bus driver told dispatchers.

Miami police would not say precisely when they first dispatched an officer to the scene, or how long it took for the first officer to arrive. But Det. William Moreno, spokesman for the Miami police, said the response time was "not out of the norm. Very average."

Joe Sanchez, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, said the first Miami police officer was dispatched at 2:06 p.m. — as a state trooper also headed toward the scene.

The first motorist call about the naked man on the light pole had been transferred to FHP, not Miami police, Sanchez said. At the time, the troopers were going through a shift change; by the time a trooper went to the scene, Miami police were already on the way, he said.

According to the Herald security video, Officer Ramirez approached the scene at 2:11 p.m., driving his patrol car the wrong way up the causeway off-ramp, but turned around before reaching the scene, which was obscured by a security wall. About two minutes later, the officer turned back up the off-ramp again and drove up to Eugene and Poppo, who were on the sidewalk.

The officer quickly drew his weapon after walking up on the pair, and shot Eugene. A witness said Eugene still would not stop chewing on Poppo. The officer fired again, killing the 31-year-old attacker.

Ramirez remains on administrative leave with the department. Poppo remains hospitalized.

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