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Mom of face-eating attacker says: 'He was no zombie'

May 31, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • Rudy Eugene, left, whom police shot and killed as he ate the face of a homeless man, Ronald Poppo, right.
Rudy Eugene, left, whom police shot and killed as he ate the face of a homeless… (Miami-Dade Police Department )

A face-eating zombie cannibal or a Bible-reading, church-attending Christian?

Those are the two vastly different portraits being presented of Rudy Eugene, above left. He was gunned down by police Saturday afternoon in Miami after horrified onlookers found him naked and chewing on a homeless man's face, eating off his mouth, nose and forehead and gouging out one of the victim's eyes. The victim, above right, remains hospitalized and faces months, if not years, of recovery.

Eugene's mother, speaking out for the first time, said she's devastated by her son's inexplicable actions. But she says the media have her son all wrong.

She also criticized police for killing her son instead of trying to find other means of subduing the man that she said faithfully read the Bible and accompanied her to church.

“Everybody says that he was a zombie, but I know he’s not a zombie; he’s my son,” the mother, identified by the Miami Herald as Ruth Charles, told the newspaper.

"I feel devastated. That was not him who was seen on TV doing that. He was a nice kid. He was a good kid. He gave me a nice card on Mother’s Day," she told CBS TV in Miami. She added: "I never had any problems with him. The police don’t have to shoot him. They could have Tased him."

Mom might be speaking from experience. The Herald and CBS report that North Miami Beach Police used a stun gun on Eugene to break up a domestic dispute involving his mother in 2004. Beyond that incident, Eugene was arrested for a handful of minor, marijuana-related charges.

There has been some speculation that Eugene might have been fueled to a frenzy by "bath salts" -- a nickname for a potent, cocaine-and-speed laced street drug. It will take weeks before toxicology reports are completed.

Meanwhile, the victim's chances of recovery remain unclear. A homeless man who had a problem with alcohol, Ronald Poppo has suffered a loss of more than 75% of his face, according to reports. Doctors are trying to deal with the immediate concern -- infection -- before they begin addressing the possibility of facial reconstructive surgery.

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+, Facebook or Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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