Nash Perez was driving his kids home from a Sunday afternoon at the Miami Children's Museum when a curious sight made him tap his brakes. A few hundred feet ahead, about midway up the sharp hill 395 climbs near the Miami Herald, a naked man was gesturing angrily at the cars whizzing past. Perez called the police. It was 1:56 p.m.
Seventeen minutes later, a Miami police car finally arrived and an officer shot and killed that naked man -- Rudy Eugene, now known the world over as the Miami Zombie -- as he gnawed on victim Ronald Poppo's face.
Perez believes he may have been the first to spot Eugene in the minutes before he savagely attacked Poppo.
Perez, a South Beach hotel employee, had just left the Children's Museum heading west on 395 when he spotted Eugene.
"He had just finished taking off his clothing and was walking up the causeway toward Miami Beach," Perez tells Riptide. "He was frantically making gestures and talking to himself, walking against traffic on the wrong side of the barriers."
Pulling out his cell phone, Perez dialed 911. He later looked at his phone records to get the exact time of the call: 1:56 p.m.
That matches the Miami Herald's timeline of the attack; Eugene first appeared on a security video shot from the paper's headquarters at 1:55 p.m.
Perez's call was transferred from Miami cops to the Florida Highway Patrol. "I said there was a guy, maybe on drugs, maybe not, but buck naked and walking toward Miami Beach on the Causeway," he says.
The Herald says at least five other passersby also called police to report Eugene. Yet it took more than 17 minutes for Miami Officer Jose Rivera to arrive; shortly after exiting his cruiser at around 2:13 p.m., Rivera shot and killed Eugene, who was nude and chewing on Poppo's face.
Perez speculates that jurisdictional trouble may have delayed a police response. "It brings up the point that there are a lot more Miami and Miami Beach cops on the streets nearby than FHP cruisers," he says. "Maybe if they had responded first they'd have gotten there sooner."
Riptide has requested a copy of all the 911 calls that came into dispatch during Eugene's attack. A Miami PD spokesman says they're still retrieving and copying the calls; we'll update this post when they come through.
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As for Perez, he didn't learn until he got home what the naked man he'd seen on the highway ended up doing before getting killed. He's thankful for one thing: "Thank goodness, my kids never saw him while we drove past."
More on Rudy Eugene, AKA the Miami Zombie:
- Rudy Eugene to Mother In 2004: "I'll Put a Gun to Your Head and Kill You"
- Causeway Cannibal Rudy Eugene Has North Miami Beach In "State of Shock"
- Ronald Poppo, Face-Eating Victim, Had Been Shot in Bayfront Park Back in 1976
- Rudy Eugene Identified As Miami Zombie, Plus NSFW Photo of Attack's Aftermath
- Naked Man Shot by Miami Police After Eating Other Man's Face