With the explosion of available channels on your television set, and the constant battle for each station to earn your viewership, the characters and circumstances that we see on television have become completely ridiculous in the past few years. At this point our society has become sort of desensitized to the truly bizarre, as it has actually just become a regular part of our viewing schedule. But there are still occasionally cases that remind even the most imaginative among us that real life is still so much weirder than anything a television writer could ever dream up.
Over the past weekend, a story emerged from the Miami metro area that was so shocking that it immediately became the go-to water cooler discussion for every office with an Internet connection around the Country. Rudy Eugene, presumably high on what most believe will prove to be bath salts, stripped off his clothes and attacked a homeless by eating his face. I should stop here and say this is not referring to actual bath salts that are used to make water smell nice or imitate natural minerals in their reaction with water. The bath salts, as used here is a phony name to reference designer drugs of the phenethylamine class. These "bath salts" comes in a powdered form that is inhaled, swallowed or shot into a vein.
By the time police arrived a staggering 18 minutes later, both men were naked, and according to ABC News, Eugene had eaten 75% of the victim Ronald Poppo's face. The arriving officer took a moment to compose himself, and eventually fired four shots into Eugene to get him to stop (and I struggle to type this upcoming phrase every time, no matter how many times it's been) eating Poppo's face. Perhaps the most alarming fact from the case is that when the officer first shot at Eugene, he just continued to chew on Poppo's face, unfazed by the first bullet that had struck him. Poppo is in critical condition right now with bad personal injuries, but he will require extensive reconstructive surgery to even have something remotely reminiscent of a normal appearance.
Eugene has a history of criminal activity, and was actually the first person ever to be tasseled by the North Miami Police Department all the way back in 2008 when he had beaten and threatened to kill his own mother. Despite some assertions at the time that Eugene was actually mentally unstable, the court handled his case without really considering that possibility, and put him back out on the streets. Because police killed him during the attack, we will never really know if it was some mental issue that caused Eugene to, again, eat the face of a stranger.
Speculation is that Eugene was on some sort of drug during the time of the attack, and the violent nature of the attack has led some to assume that bath salts will ultimately be found in his system when an autopsy is complete. It will take investigators several weeks to get a full toxicology report back on the man before we know which drug caused Eugene to act in this indefensible manor.
Bath Salts are a relatively new entrant into the National drug vernacular, but they are reportedly becoming very popular in the Miami party scene because they are widely available and Police have trouble identifying them. Although they are not technically illegal, most of the chemicals used to compose them are banned.
While they share the same name, these new drugs are not the Epsom salts that people put into their bath water to make their bath experience better. But mass producers of the drug can benefit from their relationship to Epsom salts by marketing their product as such and including a "not for human consumption" warning, which prevents the police from prosecuting as staunchly as they would against the producers of other more notorious drugs. This is not just some inventive kids finding out a new way to use a product that has been in our lives for a long time, this is just the most recent case of drug manufacturers using a false association with an approved product to continue making a product that would otherwise be banned by the Government.
The mass producers of the product, who actually have their products sold without issue in stores, can mostly avoid prosecution, but there are also rogue manufacturers who use the raw ingredients to produce a more potent and thus dangerous product. Bath Salts were starting to become a big issue in the drug enforcement world before this horrible story broke, but this has brought an awareness of these drugs to the National consciousness, and could lead to more stringent enforcement of their sale in the future.