MIAMI (CBS4) – The voice sounded remarkably calm and steady describing the horrific attack by the so-called Causeway Cannibal Rudy Eugene.
“He attacked me,” Ronald Poppo told Miami police. “He just ripped me to ribbons. He chewed up my face. He plucked out my eyes. Basically that’s — that’s all there is to say about it.”
Since CBS4’s exclusive reports Wednesday evening broadcasting those taped interviews, the question most often asked is how Poppo can seem so calm and even tempered about his situation.
“My first impression was God bless this individual, this man can survive after such an ordeal,” said Dr. Pedro Greer, Jr. “I wonder if I was able to do that, I wonder how I would react.”
Greer has been treating and working with the homeless in Miami for decades. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009 and is a former MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.
Greer believes the fact that the 65-year-old Poppo was homeless may have made him better able to deal with what happened.
“The fewer the resources an individual has around them the better able they are to cope with a lot of things,” he explained.
It is also a reminder, he added, that the public’s view of the homeless is often wrong.
“And because of the society we live in, they are going to look at you as a failure when in reality you’re not,” Greer offered. “You are probably the biggest survivor that exists there.”
While the fifteen minute taped interview between police and Poppo offers some new insights into the events of May 26th, they also provide the resigned portrait of the man long estranged from family and friends.
“Obviously, your home address is currently here at Jackson Perdue Medical Center,” the detective asked. “And outside of this facility, do you have any other addresses that you use?”
“No, not at all,” Poppo said. “Too old.”
“And you’re currently not employed, right?”
“Yes, I’m over 65,” Poppo explained. “So it’s gonna be hard for me to get anything.”
In his interview with detectives, Poppo seemed incredulous as to why Eugene would do such a thing.
“What can provoke an attack of that type?” Poppo wondered. “I certainly didn’t curse at the guy or say anything mean or nasty to him.”
(CBS4 News contacted Eugene’s mother and asked her if she wanted to comment on Poppo’s statements. She declined saying: “Any interviews I do are not going to bring him back to life. I just want to grieve and move on.”)
After the attack, news reports suggested that Poppo and Rudy Eugene may have crossed paths – possibly at a soup kitchen where Eugene reportedly fed the homeless.
“Do you recall ever seeing Mr. Eugene before?” the detective asked.
“I don’t think so,” Poppo said,
“Did you ever, to the best of your knowledge, remember Mr. Eugene providing any type of food to the homeless?”
“Nah,” Poppo said. “I don’t remember nothing like that.”
Poppo’s history with advocates for the homeless also seems at odds with his current demeanor. An earlier story on CBS4 News revealed that outreach workers claimed Poppo was often verbally abusive and threatening with them. Greer said Poppo’s reported history of alcoholism could explain it.
“Alcohol can do some very funny things with different people,” Greer stated.
Greer believes the Poppo people are hearing today more truly represents the real man.
“He comes across as a very good man,” Greer said, “a very good man in a very bad situation.”