MIAMI (CBS4) – Two months after he was viciously attacked on the MacArthur Causeway by the so-called Miami Zombie, Ronald Poppo succinctly summed up the events that captured the country’s attention.
“He attacked me,” Poppo said of Rudy Eugene. “He just ripped me to ribbons. He chewed up my face. He plucked out my eyes. Basically that’s all there is to say about it.”
- Click here to listen to the full interview.
Poppo was left blind by the attack. After several surgeries at Jackson Memorial Hospital, he was transferred to the Perdue Medical Center, Jackson’s long-term care facility located in South Miami-Dade.
Poppo said he does not understand why Eugene attacked him,
“For a very short amount of time I thought he was a good guy,” Poppo said. “But he just went and turned berserk. He apparently didn’t have a good day at the Beach and he – he was coming back. And I guess he took it out, took it out on me or something. I don’t know.”
Poppo’s statements were made and recorded during a July 19 interview with Miami homicide Det. Sgt. Altarr Williams and Det. Frankie Sanchez.
CBS4 News obtained a copy of the taped interview on Wednesday.
Ready a copy of Poppo’s statements to police. (pdf)
Sgt. Williams asked Poppo what Eugene was saying when he attacked him.
“’You, me, buddy, and nobody else here,’” Poppo recalled. “’I’m gonna — gonna kill you.’ Or something like that, I guess.”
“Did he say why?” Williams inquired.
“No, he just started to scream,” Poppo explained. “And was talking kind of funny talk for a while too.”
“What do you mean by funny talk?” Williams asked.
“That I was gonna die. And he was gonna die,” Poppo said. “He must have been souped up on something.”
During another part of the interview, Poppo said Eugene expressed frustration at not being able to “score” on Miami Beach.
“He didn’t like the Beach,” Poppo said. “He said he wasn’t scoring there. He went to the Beach to score or something.”
Although he seemed at peace with what happened to him, certain details of the attack were still vivid in Poppo’s mind.
“He mashed my face into the sidewalk,” he said. “My face is all bent and mashed up. My eyes, my eyes got plucked out. He was strangling me in wrestling holds at the same time he was plucking my eyes out.”
In a subsequent interview, Poppo told detectives that Rudy Eugene blamed Poppo for stealing his bible. Pieces of Eugene’s bible were found scattered along the causeway. Poppo said he never saw Eugene with a bible and denied taking it.
“Did Mr. Eugene have anything in his hands?” Williams asked.
“No.” Poppo said, his New York accent still evident despite decades of homelessness and living on the streets of Miami. “Mr. Eugene did not have any type of weapon. He did not use any weapon on me. He basically was using brute force.”
“But before he attacked you,” Williams wondered, “did he have any clothes? Any materials? Any books?
“No,” Poppo said. “I don’t recall him having anything.”
Poppo also denied doing anything to provoke Eugene.
“What can provoke an attack of that type?” Poppo asked matter-of-factly. “I certainly didn’t curse at the guy or say anything mean or nasty to him.”
Although some media reports suggested the two men may have previously met – and that Eugene may have served Poppo in one of the homeless shelters – Poppo said he does not recall ever meeting or seeing Eugene before the day of the attack.
The interview, however, also revealed Poppo’s confusion about some details. He thought Rudy Eugene had hitch-hiked across the causeway and may have gotten out of a car before attacking him. Video in the area shows there was no car.
Poppo also recalled Eugene being dressed when he attacked him. In fact, Eugene had shed off his clothes and was naked.
The very first time Poppo spoke to detectives – on the day of the attack – Poppo told them that Eugene appeared “out of the blue,” according to police reports obtained by CBS4 News. In one of those reports, dated May 26, 2012, Poppo claimed that when Eugene approached him Eugene said: “You’re going to be my wife and this is going to be a Lover’s Concerto.” He also claimed Eugene began singing, “Lover’s Concerto” – a song originally recorded by The Toys and later covered by The Supremes in 1966.
But in addition to those moments that may show Poppo’s confusion, there are also moments on the tape that reveal the sadness of his life even before the attack.
The detectives ask him, other than the hospital’s address, does Poppo have any other addresses they can use to reach him.
“No, not at all,” Poppo said. “Too old.”
And when they asked if he was employed, he responded: “I’m over 65. So it’s going to be kind of hard for me to get anything.”
And although the attack left Poppo blind in both eyes and undergoing occupational therapy to deal with the new realities of his life – the 65-year-old Poppo seems relatively resigned to what happened to him.
He never raises his voice in the interview or becomes upset. But it is also something he does not enjoy talking about. After less than fifteen minutes with the detectives, Poppo tried to wrap things up.
“Well anyway I’m getting kind of exhausted,” he said.
“Okay, I understand,” Williams said sympathetically. “Is there anything else you want to say?”
“Nah,” Poppo replied. “I thank the Miami Police Department for saving my life. That’s about the best I could sum it up as. If they didn’t get there in a nick of time, I would’ve definitely be in worse shape. Possibly I’ll be DOA.”