A homeless man whose face was mostly chewed off in a bizarre, vicious attack faces a bigger threat from infection than from the injuries, according to experts on facial reconstruction. He will require months of treatment to rebuild his features and will be permanently disfigured.
Though gruesome, such severe facial injuries are generally not life-threatening. The most serious risk to Ronald Poppo, as he remained hospitalized Wednesday, were germs that may have been introduced by the bites of the naked man who attacked him. One of his eyes was also gouged out.
It's not clear why Rudy Eugene, 31, attacked Poppo, 65, Saturday afternoon alongside a busy highway.
A witness described Eugene ripping at Poppo's face with his mouth and growling at a Miami police officer who ordered Eugene to get off Poppo. The officer shot and killed Eugene.
Eugene's younger brother said he was a sweet person who didn't drink much or use hard drugs. "I wish they didn't kill him so he could tell us exactly what happened. This is very uncharacteristic of him," said the brother, who asked for anonymity to protect his family from harassment.
Poppo has been in critical condition in recent days, but police didn't give an update on his condition Wednesday.
Poppo had been homeless for more than 30 years. He previously survived a gunshot wound and faced multiple charges of public intoxication, among other arrests.
Last Thursday, the Jungle Island zoo on the MacArthur Causeway called for an outreach team to deal with Poppo, who had been living on the roof of the attraction's parking garage. Poppo was belligerent and aggressive, but he was not arrested, authorites said.
Eugene left his girlfriend in Fort Lauderdale around 5 a.m. Saturday, then stopped at a friend's. He said he was on his way to Urban Beach Week, a series of outdoor concerts and parties on Miami Beach, according to his brother. No one knows what led to him walking naked on the causeway.
Police said his car was towed from a Miami Beach street sometime Saturday. It was parked illegally and was one of dozens towed during the weekend festivities.
The medical examiner declined to discuss Eugene's autopsy, and results of toxicology tests could take weeks.