Woman says face-chewing attacker was religious

Posted June 06, 2012, at 3:35 p.m.
Last modified June 06, 2012, at 8:18 p.m.

MIAMI — There was no indication the man who chewed off the face of a homeless man had a history of mental illness or was using drugs other than marijuana, the attacker’s girlfriend said Wednesday.

Yovonka Bryant said Rudy Eugene never showed any signs of violence during their four-month relationship. They often read the Bible and the Quran together, and often watched a religious television program in the mornings.

Bryant, who was questioned by police after the attack but is not under investigation, described Eugene as a Christian who wanted to know more about the Muslim faith.

“He would never leave without it, his Bible, and his Quran was always by his side,” Bryant said. Eugene would place the Bible on top of the Quran on the passenger seat of his car, she said.

“He was just figuring out the Quran. He just really picked up the Quran and was trying to actually get into it as he was into the Bible.”

Bryant last heard from Eugene in a text message the day before the May 26 attack alongside a busy Miami highway, but she declined to elaborate on what the message said. There were no warning signs that anything was wrong with Eugene, Bryant said during a news conference in Miami.

“I felt safe with Rudy,” she said. “He was happy, in a good mood.”

It’s not clear what led to the attack on Ronald Poppo, a 65-year-old homeless man who remains hospitalized. Poppo’s family has said it had no contact with him for more than 30 years and thought he was dead.

Police have released few details about what may have led to the attack.

Surveillance video from a nearby building shows Eugene, 31, stripping Poppo, and pummeling him before appearing to hunch over and lie on top of him. The police officer who shot Eugene to death said he growled at the officer when he told him to stop.

Shortly before the attack, a person driving on the MacArthur Causeway told a 911 dispatcher a “completely naked man” was on top of one of the light poles on the causeway and “acting like Tarzan.”

Eugene’s autopsy results are pending. His girlfriend said she thought someone may have slipped Eugene a drug, but she did not say why she thought that.

Bryant, a single mother of three, said she never saw Eugene drink and only once saw him smoke marijuana at a party.

Court records show Eugene had several arrests on marijuana-related charges. His brother has said Eugene sometimes smoked marijuana but didn’t drink much or use hard drugs.

Bryant, a billing specialist for a certified public accountant, hired celebrity attorney Gloria Allred to arrange a news conference “because she thinks it is important that the public know the truth about Rudy Eugene and her relationship with him,” Allred said.

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