Bath salts to blame for face-eating 'zombie' attack in Miami?

Suspect in Miami zombie attack possibly high on bath salts

Bath salts to blame for face-eating 'zombie' attack in Miami?

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Updated Thursday, May 31 at 10:51 AM

MIAMI -- The man who chewed the face off a homeless man before being shot to death by police might have been under the influence of bath salts, according to reports from CNN affiliates in Miami.

Larry Vega came upon the bizarre incident while riding his bike Saturday morning. He told WSVN-TV in Miami it was like something out of a horror movie.

"The guy was, like, tearing him to pieces with his mouth, so I told him, `Get off!'" Vega said. "The guy just kept eating the other guy away, like, ripping his skin. … It was just a blob of blood. You couldn't really see, it was just blood all over the place."

The suspect was later identified as Rudy Eugene, 31. An officer shot Eugene, but the attack continued. The officer fired again, killing Eugene.

While it's still not clear what led up to the gruesome attack, which went on for nearly 20 minutes, and subsequent deadly shooting, police have a theory.

Fraternal Order of Police President Armando Aguilar told CNN affiliate WPLG that he believes Eugene might have been high on bath salts. Aguilar went on to say that there were four other incidents in the Miami-Dade area that bore some similarities to Saturday's incident, which some have called a zombie-like attack.

Bath salts have been in local and national headlines quite in the past couple of years, with some people likening the synthetic drugs to PCP, a popular recreational drug in the late '60s and '70s.

The effects of bath salts can mimic those of PCP, also known as angel dust.

"It's what we call in the police world, 'super human strength,' where it takes several officers to subdue the subject," Chandler Police Officer Seth Tyler told 3TV's Steve Ryan earlier this month.

One of the major problems with synthetic drugs like bath salts is that they do not show up on blood tests.

"Everyone thinks they can get away with it because you can't test for it on drug tests, but what we're seeing is that it's indeed very, very dangerous for our kids," explained Dr. Ravi Chandiramani, an addiction specialist with Journey Healing Centers. "The side effects can be similar to cocaine and meth, and many have been reported, including paranoia, hallucinations, heart palpitations, seizures, kidney failure and even death."

In February, Gov. Jan Brewer signed emergency legislation to ban seven specific chemical compounds used in bath salts. Street names of the drugs include ivory wave, ivory snow, ocean snow, vanilla sky, purple wave, zoon 2, red dove, wish rush and scarface.

Arizona's law came just a few months after the Drug Enforcement Agency made it illegal to possess the stimulants in bath salts. That emergency order expires in October, one year after it was issued, although there is an option for a six-month extension.

At this point, there are 33 other states that restrict or outright ban some of the chemicals in bath salts, according to the DEA.

While Arizona has not seen anything as disturbing as the Miami attack, emergency responders say they are seeing the extreme effects bath salts can have on people. According to a report taken by a Chandler officer recently, a boy tried to hack off his arm with a cleaver.

The victim of the Miami attack has now been identified as Ronald Poppo, 65. He remains in critical condition. According to what Aguilar told WPLG, at least 75 percent of the man's face is gone.

Investigators are looking for more witnesses to try and help them piece together what exactly happened in the minutes and hours before Eugene and Poppo were discovered.

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