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Rudy Eugene's mother: Son was "no zombie," should have been tased, not shot

Cops look for more witnesses of naked face-chewing attack
Rudy Eugene is seen in an undated mug shot Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner

(CBS) MIAMI, Fla. - The mother of Rudy Eugene, who attacked a homeless man in Miami and chewed his face before being shot and killed by a police officer, says her son was "a nice kid" who could have been subdued with a Taser rather than deadly gunfire, CBS Miami reports.

Pictures: Fla. police identify "face-eating" naked man

The mother, who asked CBS Miami not to reveal her name, said that wasn't her son who she saw on TV - the son who also had two baby brothers, and that "they used to go to church all the time together."

"He was a good kid," she said. "He gave me a nice card on Mother's Day. Everyone says he was a zombie. He was no zombie. That was my son."

On Saturday afternoon, the 31-year-old Eugene was killed by a police officer after a reported 18-minute attack on a homeless man, who police identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo. Video of the incident shows Eugene coming across Poppo on a sidewalk along Miami's MacArthur Causeway, stripping clothes off him and eventually chewing on his face.

Poppo was in critical condition at a Miami hospital. Police said he lost 75 percent of his face in the attack.

But Eugene's mother told CBS Miami that she never had problems with him, and it wasn't necessary for police to shoot him.

"They could have tased him," she said. "I saw what happened on TV and I started crying."

Eugene's girlfriend, who also requested anonymity from CBS Miami, said the face-eating attacker she saw on TV was nothing like the man she knew and loved.

"That wasn't him, that was his body but it wasn't his spirit. Somebody did this to him," she said.

"He loved God. He always read the Bible. He would give you knowledge on the Bible. Everywhere he went his Bible went. When he left he had his Bible in his hand."

Eugene's girlfriend described him as a "sweet loving gentleman" and a "hard working man" who worked at a car wash and dreamed of owning his own business. She said she has no idea what caused the attack, but she saw no signs of any violence in the nearly five years they lived together.

Armando Aguilar, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told CBS Miami that he suspects Eugene was under the influence of an LSD-like drug called "bath salts." The drug contains synthetic stimulants that can "cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, and delusions," according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Sgt. Javier Ortiz, vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, said officials won't know for certain whether drugs played a role in the attack until toxicology reports are completed in a month or so. But he said police have been seeing increased incidents of drug-induced crime in the area, according to CNN.

"He was a nice, outgoing, ready-to-help-anybody kind of guy," high school friend Cassandra Metayer told CBS Miami. "Someone in their right mind doesn't do that. This is not the act of a normal person. It has to be someone under the influence."

Complete coverage of Rudy Eugene on Crimesider

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