The Miami Zombie

By Frank Owen Photography by Hacob

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The Miami Zombie:

Miami, Florida It’s after one P.M. on the Saturday before Memorial Day. The sun sits high in the cloudless subtropical sky. A bearded man with braided hair pushes his way through the withering heat, waving his arms and muttering to himself. Thirty-one-year-old Rudy Eugene is as naked as the day his creator made him. The only thing this small-time marijuana peddler carries is a King James Bible. Spread out before him is the MacArthur Causeway, three miles of baking concrete that links South Beach (the southern end of Miami Beach) to the downtown Miami mainland. It is Eugene’s last hour on earth, and ahead lies his own personal highway to a special kind of hell.

Nobody knows what was going through Eugene’s troubled mind in his final moments, but it couldn’t have been pretty. Those driving on the causeway that afternoon see a lean, muscular man, about six-foot and 185 pounds, who seems to be in a hypnotic daze. The first sign the police receive that something is wrong is a 911 call from a motorist time-stamped 1:53 p.m.

“There’s a tall African American man completely naked on one of the light poles, acting like Tarzan,” the startled driver alerts the operator.

The blistering sun continues to beat down on Eugene’s braided head. He’s nearly at the end of the causeway when he sees a homeless man snoozing in a shady spot next to the off-ramp that borders the Miami Herald building. His name is Ronald Poppo, a leathery bag of bones sleeping off a hangover. Poppo is 65 and once had a life—one full of promise, as it turns out. Once a student at Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School, a Latin scholar with a 129 IQ, he was destined for great things, until he hit the skids.

Eugene wakes Poppo. At first Eugene appears friendly. After a few minutes, however, his mood turns and he accuses Poppo of trying to steal his Bible.

“I’m gonna kill you,” Eugene says. “It’s just you and me. Nobody else here.”

Eugene pounces on Poppo, kicks him in the gut and beats him about the head with his fists. The old man kicks back, trying to defend himself against the much younger and stronger Eugene. So Eugene punishes him by dragging him across the concrete and beating him again, before ripping off the man’s trousers.

The attacker straddles Poppo and sinks his teeth into his cheek. He throws his head back, ripping off a chunk of Poppo’s sunburned flesh. He chews it and then, as though the mouthful suddenly repulses him, spits it to the sidewalk. Eugene gouges both Poppo’s eyes with his bare hands and then bites off his nose, after which he chomps away at whatever skin, muscle and fat is left on the homeless man’s face. Poppo is now barely recognizable as human; his face looks like raw hamburger meat.

A flashing blue light appears in the corner of Eugene’s vision. He hears the sound of squealing tires and then a man’s voice: “Move away from the body. Move away or I will shoot you.”

Officer Jose Ramirez can hardly believe what he’s witnessing. Eugene turns his head and lets out a feral growl. Ramirez sees Poppo’s blood bubbling between the assailant’s teeth. Stunned, he steadies himself, bends his knees and fires. Eugene barely flinches as the bullet drills into him. He continues to attack Poppo. It takes three more shots before Eugene collapses next to the homeless man’s body. Poppo is in shock, his right leg twitching like a downed power line. He’s alive, but only just.

A dark curtain descends over Eugene’s life. Rudy Eugene is no more, but within hours, he will rise like Lazarus from the dead. For Eugene is resurrected not to sit next to God in heaven, as he hoped and expected, but to serve as an internet meme, sentenced for his sins to live for all eternity as a parody of a horror-movie monster.

He is now the “Miami Zombie.”

By the time Miami Fraternal Order of Police president Armando Aguilar arrived, the crime scene was cordoned off with yellow tape. Lines of honking cars stretched bumper-to-bumper from South Beach to the mainland. Paramedics were loading Ronald Poppo into the back of an ambulance. Months, if not years, of painful reconstructive surgery awaited him.

Investigators combed the area and identified Poppo’s attacker by a driver’s license left along the causeway. They also found pages Eugene had ripped from his beloved Bible, his one constant companion, his friends would later tell reporters. Officers walking the span of the bridge retrieved items of Eugene’s clothing. They found a set of gold teeth in the pocket of his pants.

Aguilar had seen some sick sights in his three decades in law enforcement—beheaded bodies, grisly car crashes—but nothing as unspeakable as this. The attack had lasted 18 minutes. Eighteen long minutes. Imagine Poppo’s terror. Aguilar shook his head in disbelief. What sort of human being could do this to another, he asked himself, and more important, why? Drugs, probably, but what type of drug?

Back when he was a narcotics cop in the 1980s, Aguilar had seen people high on LSD, crack or PCP do all kinds of crazy things, but that paled in comparison with this. He stared at where Rudy Eugene’s bullet-riddled body lay on the sidewalk next to a pool of blood. He half expected the body to start moving and Eugene to sit up.

Aguilar had a more pressing problem than figuring out the mystery of what prompted Eugene to do what he did. Officer Ramirez, who was now draped in a blanket in the back of an ambulance, most likely saved Ronald Poppo’s life. Nobody could say this wasn’t a good shooting, Aguilar thought. Ramirez had a clean record, and this was the first time he had used his weapon in his four years with the department.

Still, the fact remained that a Hispanic officer had shot an unarmed black man in a city with a long history of racially charged police killings. Aguilar was well aware of the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the Miami Police Department: Hispanic cops had fatally shot seven African American civilians in the span of eight months. The shootings raised tensions in a city already known as a racial tinderbox.

It was approaching three P.M., and Aguilar had only a short time before the story exploded in the media. He decided to bury the racial angle by feeding local reporters an alternative narrative that would prove irresistible: A flesh-eating monster high on a sinister new drug called bath salts devoured a homeless man’s face.

Later that evening the local CBS television station, WFOR, aired a possible explanation for the grisly assault.

“The officer believes the man clearly, clearly was on some very, very powerful drugs,” said news anchor Cynthia Demos.

“That’s right, Cynthia,” said reporter Tiffani Helberg. “The Fraternal Order of Police president tells me this crop of LSD”—referring to bath salts—“is a major threat to police officers as well as the rest of us. He says it turns normal people into monsters that possess this superhuman strength and no ability to feel pain.”

Bath salts are packets of drugs that, until a federal ban came into effect recently, were legally sold over the counter in head shops, gas stations and convenience stores. Marketed under brand names such as Purple Rain and Vanilla Sky, the packets contain anything from caffeine to the dental anesthetic lidocaine, but they mostly consist of synthetic cathinones, a class of stimulants—primarily mephedrone, methylone and MDPV—that mimic the properties of an herbal compound found in the khat plant native to East Africa.

Bath salts started to pop up in the United States three years ago. They were considered either a starter drug for teenagers or a replacement drug for users who couldn’t get ecstasy or crystal meth. The fact that the drug was legal was its biggest selling point—and it didn’t show up on standard drug tests.

Until police union chief Aguilar blamed the Rudy Eugene incident on bath salts, few members of the Miami Police Department had heard of the drug.

A month after the macabre assault, Aguilar is sitting behind his desk in his office at Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge housed in a boxy blue stucco building in a shabby part of the Little Havana neighborhood. Aguilar wears a brown short-sleeved guayabera—the garment of choice for older members of Miami’s Cuban exile community. The police union boss is medium height with a trim build. His bald head and mustache make him look like a thinner, olive-skinned version of Dr. Phil.

A politician’s grin spreads across his face as he checks his iPhone for messages. It has been a busy month. The same grin beams from a framed photograph from the 1980s that hangs on the wall behind him; in the photo Aguilar, then a member of the elite Street Narcotics Unit, stands behind a table heaped with guns and cocaine—the goods from a major drug bust.

Aguilar’s grin disappeared in 1993 when the U.S. government charged him with planting a butcher knife at a crime scene in an attempt to cover up the murder of small-time drug dealer Leonardo Mercado. (Six Miami cops had been charged with beating Mercado to death a few years earlier, but none was convicted.) The rictus grin returned, however, after the jury acquitted Aguilar of the conspiracy charges.

His comments to the local media that bath salts were suspected of triggering the MacArthur Causeway incident sparked an orgy of news coverage that turned bath salts from an obscure drug trend into the scourge of a nation practically overnight.

“All this publicity is crazy,” he says as he sits back in his chair. “I’ve done more than a hundred interviews. The media interest in this case is unbelievable.”

Typical was his appearance on CNN four days after the horror on the causeway. “The gruesome face-eating attack in Miami could be part of a trend, an example of something larger and much more dangerous,” host Erin Burnett told her viewers. Aguilar agreed and pointed to two other cases in the Miami area in which people “disrobed themselves and became very, very violent.” Police initially blamed these incidents on LSD, Aguilar said, but were now convinced they were caused by bath salts.

“All three became psychotic, all three had superhuman strength and felt no pain,” he told Burnett.

“The reason they take off their clothes is that their body temperature goes through the roof,” Aguilar tells me. “By this point, their internal organs are about to explode from the inside out.”

The two other incidents Aguilar was referring to happened in March, when 23-year-old Evan Oberfelder assaulted police officers after being hit by a cab while walking partially naked along Bayshore Drive, and in April, when 21-year-old George Salgado of West Miami died in police custody after cops tasered him to prevent him from biting someone’s neck. Oberfelder reportedly admitted to using LSD; Salgado’s friend revealed that Salgado had also been tripping on acid. “George Salgado was not taking bath salts,” says Salgado family lawyer Jeffrey Norkin. “It was garden-variety blotter acid with a picture of SpongeBob on it.”

Reporters didn’t seem to care that Aguilar had no expertise in the pharmacological action of drugs on the human brain or that he didn’t provide a scintilla of credible evidence that bath salts were involved in any of these cases. Horror stories about intoxicants have been a staple of American reporting since the temperance crusades, but this one was the mother of all drug-scare stories. It was too good for journalists to fact-check.

Before long, the events of May 26 spawned what seemed to be copycat incidents, further fueling the bath salts frenzy. On June 2 police arrested a 21-year-old homeless man for disorderly conduct at a fast-food restaurant in North Miami Beach. On the way to the station, he threatened officers, “I’m going to eat you.” Police found an empty packet of Cloud 9 bath salts on the man, and hospital blood tests revealed the presence of Xanax, marijuana and alcohol.

That same weekend in Louisiana a 43- year-old man assaulted his ex-wife’s husband and bit off a chunk of his face. A friend of the victim told police that she thought the attacker might have been using bath salts. The police admitted they couldn’t be sure because a test was never performed.

Ten days later a 35-year-old woman ran naked through the streets of Munnsville, New York. She supposedly growled at state troopers, and when she tried to bite one, she was tasered and died of a heart attack. State police suspected the dead woman of using bath salts.

As the latest in a long line of chemical bogeymen, bath salts became a general category on which the police could pin all the ills of drug abuse. Meanwhile, the internet fanned public paranoia as users of social media sites jokingly linked Rudy Eugene to an impending “zombie apocalypse.”

The case tapped into the current cultural fascination with zombies, evidenced by so-called zombie walks and the success of the TV show The Walking Dead. Add in the reality that Eugene had family roots in Haiti, where voodoo beliefs are deeply ingrained. A headline in the English-language newspaper Russia Today captured the over-the-top nature of the coverage: NEW “BATH SALTS” ZOMBIE-DRUG MAKES AMERICANS EAT EACH OTHER.

The panic continued to escalate, and ABC News ran a story headlined FACE-EATING ATTACK POSSIBLY PROMPTED BY “BATH SALTS,” AUTHORITIES SUSPECT. I found it strange that journalists continued to insist that Rudy Eugene had been high on bath salts. No drug paraphernalia was found at the crime scene. The initial toxicology report didn’t test for bath salts, and a more sophisticated test, which probes for a wider variety of drugs, would take upward of a month to complete.

To find out what all the fuss was about, I decided to try bath salts—or at least mephedrone, a common active ingredient in bath salts. Over an eight-hour period I snorted roughly half a gram—a fair-size dose—of the white powder, first in a Miami Beach nightclub and then again after I got home. At first, other than a tightness in my chest and a slight numbness in my limbs, I didn’t feel anything. But then my central nervous system lit up and I became as buoyant as foam floating on the surface of a fast-moving river.

Colors became more vivid and music more distinct. It was as if I could reach out and caress the texture of the sound coming from the speakers. I felt energized yet strangely relaxed. The drug that mephedrone is most commonly compared to is ecstasy, and I definitely felt a sense of increased connectedness to the other partygoers. My wife, who refused to take bath salts, saw it differently. “If you want to fuck, let’s go home and fuck, but stop stroking me,” she said. “It’s really irritating.”

When the mephedrone started to wear off, I didn’t experience a “fiending” phenomenon—the compulsive need to redose that can cause some “meph-heads” to get into trouble. But I did suffer a serotonin hangover: High-dose users report that depleted levels of the brain chemical can cause suicidal thoughts. I tried to eat a snack while I was coming down, but I couldn’t force the food down my throat. You can’t swallow a granola bar, let alone gnaw on a human face, while high on this drug, which makes the story of Rudy Eugene even more of a mystery.

The overall experience was disappointing. It’s easy to understand why consumers would think bath salts are a decent enough alternative to ecstasy. What’s not easy to understand is why anybody would think that such an uninspiring drug should be the target of a full-fledged moral panic. That’s because, as far as drug warriors such as Armando Aguilar are concerned, the substance itself is beside the point. The real point is the panic.

Outside the emergency room of Jackson Memorial Hospital, the same medical facility where Rudy Eugene was born and where Ronald Poppo is recuperating, there’s a plaza area with a concrete ornamental pool and a feeble-looking fountain. The sun has just disappeared below the horizon, and the plaza is bathed in an eerie blue glow.

Dr. Paul Adams, a mild-mannered physician with a pink face and freshly scrubbed hands tucked neatly into the pockets of his white coat, works in the ER at Jackson Memorial. He says that one night not so long ago, medical staffers tied a man to a gurney because he was violent. Adams suspected the patient was high on bath salts. As often happens, he says, the sedatives he injected into the man wore off before the drug did. The patient broke free from his restraints, dashed through the packed waiting room and jumped into the shallow pool outside. Adams says bath salts had caused the man to overheat, and he was trying to cool off.

“Bath salts combine the worst effects of LSD, the worst effects of crystal meth and the worst effects of PCP,” says Adams as he strolls through the corridors of the ER. “People on bath salts have no limitations. They don’t perceive pain. They seem as if they have superhuman strength.”

Next to Aguilar, no one did more to stoke the Great Bath Salts Panic of 2012 than Adams. Soon after the first newspaper and television reports, the doctor was there to give the stamp of medical legitimacy to Aguilar’s off-the-cuff conjecture. If the police union president said bath salts turn users into turbocharged ogres, the physician would underscore his point with a story about how it took four or five ER personnel to hold down a bath salts zombie, maybe even six, depending on which reporter he told the story to. (Adams now tells me it takes at least two ER personnel to sedate someone on bath salts.)

If Aguilar said bath salts were the new form of LSD, Adams would concur that you “can call it the new LSD,” even though he knows LSD and bath salts are completely different drugs. Reporters quoted the two in tandem so often that it was easy to believe they were in cahoots, but Adams and Aguilar have never met each other.

Starting in early 2011, Adams began to notice patients who were clearly under the influence of some sort of psychoactive substance exhibiting strange and erratic behavior. These cases weren’t just violent. What was odd was that while they exhibited the classic clinical symptoms of stimulant overdose—rapid heart rate, overheating, hallucinations, aggressive behavior—their blood tests came back clean. No cocaine, no methamphetamine, no LSD, no marijuana, not even the presence of alcohol. Something was going on out there on Miami’s dangerous streets that Adams didn’t know about, but what exactly? He asked some of his law enforcement contacts and heard the term bath salts.

Adams came to his conclusion. “Our emergency room tests don’t detect everything,” he says. “One of the drugs they don’t detect is bath salts. If I want to test for bath salts, I have to send samples to an outside laboratory. When somebody tests negative for everything, it’s a good bet bath salts are involved.”

Many times it’s difficult to know what drugs users are on when he treats them, Adams says. There’s a lot of guesswork. “If you tap someone on the shoulder and that person turns around and smiles at you,” says Adams, “the likelihood is that person is on ecstasy.

“Taking your clothes off, running through traffic and assaulting people is an indicator of bath salt abuse. You have people in after-hours clubs in Miami taking these substances and running around completely naked in the street.”

Perhaps Adams doesn’t remember the PCP scare of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when running naked through traffic was said to be one of the less alarming effects. In late June 2012 the media in Scottsdale, Arizona blamed bath salts when a naked man carjacked a Toyota Prius and caused multiple car crashes. Days later, the toxicology test reported only PCP in the nude carjacker’s system (no test for bath salts was conducted).

Nevertheless, the media continued to hold bath salts responsible for a so-called naked crime wave sweeping the nation. In June alone bath salts took the heat for at least 12 crimes, from California to New York, many involving people not wearing any clothes.

It’s easy to believe the world is falling apart when you’re an ER physician. “I always see humanity at its worst,” admits Adams.

In the wake of the MacArthur Causeway incident, Miami-Dade commissioners moved to ban bath salts. Manuel Maroño, mayor of Sweetwater, a tiny speck of a Miami suburb, also stepped forward and spoke for a frightened nation when he announced that he intended to outlaw the drug in his town. “How many people need to die to get this epidemic under control?” he asked.

Never mind that the Sweetwater police had not arrested a single person for a bath-salts-related crime in the past year.

On the national level, the stakes were higher, as Congress pushed a new bill to outlaw bath salts. Republican senator Rand Paul was holding up a 2011 bill, the Synthetic Drug Control Act, because he objected to what he saw as draconian penalties imposed on users and sellers. The sponsor of the bill, Republican congressman Charlie Dent, told Roll Call in early June, “When they learn about this face-chewing situation in Florida, hopefully that will change a few minds.” Congress drafted a new bill, Paul dropped his opposition, and in early July President Obama signed it into law as an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.

Mephedrone and MDPV—the synthetic stimulants most common in bath salts—are now Schedule I controlled substances, along with LSD and heroin, and selling the drug is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Back in Miami, the media circus continued in early June with the arrival of attorney and publicity hound Gloria Allred. She briefly blew into town to represent her new client, Rudy Eugene’s girlfriend, Yovonka Bryant. Why Bryant needed a high-priced attorney was a mystery. The only suspect in the case was dead. The real reason for Allred’s visit was to address what she called an important issue: Miami’s cannibalism problem.

Standing next to Bryant in the Sofitel hotel ballroom, Allred addressed a room full of journos. “Yovonka and I are very concerned about the issue of cannibalism,” she said. “Cannibalism is a serious issue and is very dangerous to the health and well-being of both the cannibal and the victim.”

As I continued to investigate the Rudy Eugene incident, it became increasingly obvious I was witnessing a classic drug panic. All drug-scare stories follow a similar pattern. A new drug is vilified by reporters who present extreme examples as the norm. Exaggerated claims are made about the drug’s prevalence. And the media take it from there.

Something had to be missing from the Miami Zombie media accounts, some other factor such as an undiagnosed mental illness or a history of violence. I ventured into Eugene’s home community to find out.

North Miami Beach is an unassuming blue-collar suburb of low-slung, pastel-colored ranch houses that is home to the second-largest Haitian community in America. In the beauty parlors and Caribbean restaurants, Creole is spoken nearly as often as English. Rudy Eugene grew up here, attending North Miami Beach High, where he played football for the school team, the Chargers, and dreamed of becoming a professional athlete one day.

When the news broke about what happened on the MacArthur Causeway, North Miami Beach residents were surprised. Eugene’s friends had never heard of bath salts other than the crystals you put in a tub of hot water. They insisted the only drug Eugene used was marijuana. He even refused to take Tylenol for a headache, they said. Eugene’s criminal record bore this out. He’d been arrested four times for marijuana offenses, including when police apprehended him in 2008 in South Beach after finding 39 bags of pot stuffed down his trousers. He had no history of experimenting with more exotic substances.

His friends painted a portrait of an introspective, deeply spiritual person. He was a quiet man, they said, a pious man, a person without pretension. They called him Preacher because he often shared Bible verses on his Facebook page, but he was no saint.

There were moments when the other Rudy Eugene appeared: mean, paranoid, someone who was convinced the world was out to get him.

This was the secret Eugene carried around, the one thing he wanted to share with his Bible-study buddies but was too scared to because he thought they wouldn’t understand. After his ex-wife, Jenny Ductant, witnessed his dark side, she promptly filed for divorce, saying she feared for her personal safety.

“I wouldn’t say he had mental problems, but he always felt like people were always against him. No one was for him,” Ductant told Miami TV station Local 10.

Another friend, Erica Smith, a former roommate, said that days before his death Eugene told her brother that he was depressed and contemplating suicide.

On a Sunday morning at the Seventh Avenue Flea Market in North Miami, the place was almost empty. Inside the high-ceilinged warehouse, peeling barber chairs stood empty waiting for clients. Eugene used to be a regular at the flea market, where he hawked homemade CDs of himself performing rap music. He wanted to become a hip-hop star. The reality of his life was that he was an intermittently employed car washer and burger flipper who sold pot to make ends meet—a bum, as his mother, Ruth Charles, a hardworking nurse’s assistant, reportedly called him.

The flea market’s owner, Gyula Kis, is an elderly white-haired Hungarian with blue eyes and a pistol strapped to his waist. He remembers Eugene but doesn’t want to talk about him because it’s bad for business, though he does confirm that in 2007 the police had to be called to the flea market after Eugene started a fight with former pro pugilist Melton Bowen. The one-time mixed martial artist and heavyweight boxing champion turned DJ was blasting music at a booth he’d rented when Eugene asked him to change the track. Bowen refused, so Eugene took off his shirt and balled his fists. “I’m gonna kill you,” he told Bowen. Bowen was flabby, but he still knew how to throw a right hook, which sent Eugene crashing to the ground.

More shameful, however, was another incident that happened in 2004, when Eugene threatened to kill his own mother. He was tearing apart his mother’s living room when he screamed at her, “I’ll put a gun to your head and kill you.” Melimon Charles, his stepfather, called the police. After the officers arrived, Eugene’s mother told them, “Thank God you’re here. He would have killed me.” The police ordered Eugene to calm down, and when he wouldn’t, they tasered him.

The officers at the scene could tell Eugene wasn’t well. “He had that thousand-yard stare, staring right into you,” one officer remembered. Eugene’s friends refuse to believe he had a mental illness—something regarded as a stigma among many Haitians. Better to blame evil spirits; better to blame the girlfriend, Yovonka Bryant.

“It was all Yovonka’s fault,” said one of Eugene’s friends who asked that she remain anonymous. “Rudy only knew her for four months. She changed him. She was the one who turned him into a zombie.” (Bryant did not respond to Playboy’s request for comment.)

Eugene’s memorial service was at the Grace Funeral Home on June 9, 2012. His mother couldn’t hide her sadness, not just at her son’s death but also because, as The Miami Herald first reported, four churches refused to bury him. The Haitian Christian community in North Miami had turned its back because of the voodoo rumors surrounding Eugene.

Yet, as it soon became clear, believing that voodoo caused Rudy Eugene to attack Ronald Poppo was no more an example of magical thinking than was blaming bath salts.

A month after the gruesome attack on the MacArthur Causeway, the Miami-Dade County medical examiner released the final toxicology report. A second laboratory independently confirmed the results.

No bath salts were found in Eugene’s system.

“Within the limits of current technology by both laboratories,” the medical examiner’s office said in a statement, “marijuana is the only drug identified in the body of Mr. Rudy Eugene.”

A number of elements present on the day of the attack might in combination unravel the mystery. A fair amount of circumstantial evidence suggests Eugene suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness—his obsessive religiosity, his persecution complex, his violent outbursts and his suicidal impulses.

“When I read about the case, the first thing I thought was that he was a paranoid schizophrenic,” says Wade Silverman, a Miami-based forensic psychologist. “There is often a religious element in schizophrenic behavior. Paranoid schizophrenics often hear voices from God.”

Environmental factors could also have played a role. What about the 90-degree heat and the three-mile trek across a concrete causeway with no shade? The sun can do strange things to a man’s mind. And then there was the marijuana. Marijuana use on its own can’t explain extreme aggression, but a growing body of medical evidence says pot can sometimes trigger aggression in the mentally ill.

Many different elements might have clarified what went down that afternoon, but in an act of mass hysteria, everybody focused on the one factor that wasn’t there: bath salts.

“We as a society have a preoccupation with drugs as evil,” says Silverman. “It’s less threatening for people to believe that some evil substance caused this incident because the alternative explanation is too frightening—that some people can act like this on their own without drugs being involved.”

Surely now the frenzy would subside, given the final toxicology reports.

No such luck. Armando Aguilar returned to the media spotlight to challenge the medical examiner’s findings.

“I still believe there was something else in Rudy Eugene’s system other than marijuana that the medical examiner didn’t detect,” says the union chief (who will step down at the end of his term). “There was definitely something there, something we just can’t test for yet, maybe a new form of bath salts or maybe even a completely new compound that we don’t yet know about.”

Why is Aguilar continuing to fan the flames? As a former drug cop, he must know that no bath salts epidemic exists in Miami. He must know that the number of arrests for the possession or dealing of bath salts in Miami in the past 12 months is zero.

“Until certain people started speculating about bath salts, I’d never even heard about this drug, and neither had most of the Miami Police Department,” says department spokesman Delrish Moss. “In the city of Miami we have cocaine, marijuana, heroin and, to a lesser extent, a number of club drugs like ecstasy, but bath salts weren’t even on our radar.”

“I don’t know where the union chief is getting this from,” he adds.

I started to suspect that Aguilar’s real agenda wasn’t about bath salts. Was this more about the Department of Justice investigation of the Miami PD? Were bath salts a convenient bogeyman to justify police officers using deadly force to subdue drug users?

The only facts we are left with about Rudy Eugene are these: Psychiatrists cannot diagnose schizophrenia postmortem. Toxicologists cannot test for a new drug unless they know its chemical structure. Whatever brought the Miami Zombie to life will probably never be fully known.

Additional reporting by Lera Gav


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