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Rudy Eugene's Stepfather: Police Should Have Tased, Not Killed Him

Since 31-year-old Rudy Eugene was shot and killed by a Miami Police officer while devouring a homeless man's face, his family has stayed mum. But this evening, Eugene's former stepfather, who raised Eugene through much of his childhood, spoke for the first time to Riptide-- and said that the police should have stunned the cannibal rather than shooting him dead.

"If I was a cop, that's not how I would treat a man," said Melimon Charles. "I would tranquilize him and find out what was wrong."

Charles, a bespectacled, even-tempered man, spoke to Riptide through the barely-cracked door of his apartment in North Miami. He only agreed to talk at all, he said, because he wanted to make public his family's feelings on Eugene's killing. "That's why the department has all those tools," said Charles, referring to Tasers. "You have to use the right tool."

He won't find much agreement among the populace on that point. Eugene's victim, Ronald Poppo, lost more than seventy-five percent of his face in the attack -- and may be already dead if it had gone on any longer. It is true that local cops are woefully untrained when it comes to dealing with broad daylight face-eating episodes.

Charles married Rudy Eugene's mother Ruth Funeus in 1985, when the kid was four years old. They were divorced twenty years later. The stepdad said he kept in touch with Eugene, and last saw him two months ago. As always, the stepdad tried to convince him to go back to school to earn his college degree, and Eugene said he'd consider it. "He was a fine man," declared Charles. "He was working very hard to make his life better."

Since being shot amidst one of the most gruesome and bizarre attacks in American history, Eugene has earned the nicknames "Miami Zombie" and "Causeway Cannibal". The monikers hurt, said Charles: "That's not fair. He's a human."

He insisted that his stepson was not violent, and downplayed a 2004 incident in which Eugene was arrested for threatening to kill his mother: "He was not acting crazy."

Eugene's mother Ruth, Charles said, has been besieged by reporters at home since the death of her son. "She doesn't want to talk to anybody," said Charles. "She loved him very much. It's very hard."

Charles, a professional welder, said that his stepson, a former North Miami Beach Charger, never quite let go of an unrealistic dream: "All his life, he wanted to be a football player."

Said Charles before closing the door: "He always promised me he was going to make it, he was going to be a good boy, and he was going to have a good life."


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