MIAMI -- Members of North Miami Beach High School class of 2000 have a message they would like to share: Classmate Rudy Eugene was the kind of friend you called to help lug furniture or cheer you up on a bad day.
He sported a beautiful smile. The former North Miami Beach High football player "was not a face-eating zombie monster," said classmate Victoria Forte.
Eugene, 31, was positively identified as the man who went on a crazed rampage Saturday on the MacArthur Causeway. Witnesses said a naked Eugene mauled another nude man's face and was stopped after several blasts from a Miami police officer's gun.
His victim, whom police sources identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, is hanging on to life at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.
The story of the flesh-eating beast in Miami quickly went viral, as such news-of-the-weird tends to do. But those who knew Eugene say they were stunned to learn of his involvement, because the description of the enraged cannibal gunned down in broad daylight bears no resemblance to the person they knew.
"Classmates from Naples, Orlando to Miami cannot get over this," Forte said. "There's been an overwhelming response. We are going to do our part as his friends to not let him go down like this. The Rudy we know was a nice gentleman with a warm smile and funny. He's not like that at all."
Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Eugene was arrested by Miami Beach police on a battery charge when he was 16, but the case was dropped.
Records show he was arrested seven other times over five years. Court records show one was for misdemeanour battery, one was for vending near a school, one was for trespassing and four involved marijuana.
-- McClatchy Newspapers