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What caused naked face-chewing attack: Bath salts, LSD?

A man was shot to death in Miami after eating the face of his still-living victim. WTVJ-TV's Diana Gonzalez reports.

MIAMI -- Authorities in Miami are looking for more witnesses after a police officer fatally shot a naked man who refused to stop chewing on the face of another naked man on a busy downtown highway ramp.

Detective William Moreno said police are looking for people to fill in the blanks on what led to the grisly scene in which a witness reported that a man — later identified by authorities as Rudy Eugene, 31 — savagely chewed on the other man's face and growled when a police officer told him to stop.

Miami police have released few details about the weekend attack, other than confirming that there was a fatal officer-involved shooting. One officer told Miami television station WSVN the attacker had likely taken a new potent form of LSD. An emergency room doctor theorized bath salts, a drug with amphetamine-like chemicals nicknamed after the product it resembles, may have induced the violent behavior, reported NBCMiami.com.

The victim, who has not been identified, has been hospitalized in critical condition. Miami's local10.com reported he was a homeless man who frequents the neighborhood where he was attacked.

Read the latest on the face attack on NBCMiami.com

Witness Larry Vega was riding his bicycle Saturday afternoon off the MacArthur Causeway that connects downtown Miami with Miami Beach when he saw the savage attack.

"The guy was, like, tearing him to pieces with his mouth, so I told him, 'Get off!'" Vega told Miami television station WSVN. "The guy just kept eating the other guy away, like, ripping his skin."

Vega flagged down a Miami police officer, who he said repeatedly ordered the attacker to get off the victim. The attacker just picked his head up and growled at the officer, Vega said.

As the attack continued, Vega said the officer shot the attacker, who continued chewing the victim's face. The officer fired again, killing the attacker.

Emergency personnel rushed the victim to Jackson Memorial Hospital with 75 percent of his face missing, reported WSVN. An eye, his ears, and his lips were gone, the station said.

"It was just a blob of blood," Vega said. "You couldn't really see, it was just blood all over the place."

A surveillance video camera from The Miami Herald building nearby captured images of the men's naked legs lying side by side after the shooting.

“We’re hoping that he pulls through, for his well-being, but also so he can tell us what happened,” Sgt. Javier Ortiz, vice president of the Miami police union, told The Miami Herald. “Only he knows.”

Drug-induced excited delirium?
Armando Aguilar of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police told WSVN he believed the attacker was likely overdosing on LSD.

"What's happening is whenever we see that a person has taken all of his clothes off and has become violent, it's indicative of this excited delirium that's caused by overdose of drugs," he said. "What's happening is, inside their body their organs are burning up alive."

Excited delirium, a condition that's usually drug-related, can incite violence, unexpected strength, and sometimes hypothermia, NBCMiami.com reported.

Paul Adams, an ER doctor at Jackson Memorial Hospital, told NBCMiami.com the designer drug nicknamed "bath salts" could have led to the attack.

“Cocaine and new LSDs, they cause delirium, which (means) you don't make sense when you take them," Adams said. "And when you don't make sense and you don't control your emotions, you don’t control your actions, you find yourself in circumstances that you just don't want to be in.”

Bath salts were banned in Florida in 2011, said NBCMiami.com. But new formulations have become popular, Adams said.

“We've had several deaths. Earlier last year we probably saw our first deaths from bath salts, where people (were) running onto MacArthur Causeway, under MacArthur Causeway, being chased by the police and then all of the sudden just collapsing," Adams said.

Eugene, the suspect, has just one arrest suggesting violent tendencies: Miami Beach police arrested him on a battery charge when he was 16, which was later dropped, reported The Miami Herald.

He has been arrested seven other times over five years, mostly for marijuana-related charges, the paper said. He was briefly married to a woman he met in high school at North Miami Beach Senior High, court records revealed, according to local10.com. The two divorced in 2007 after he reportedly became violent toward her.

"That's why I left," his ex-wife told local10.com, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other homeless people who camp near the scene of the attack told local10.com they knew the suspect.

Police asked for the public's assistance in piecing together the attack.

"We know that there were many people on the MacArthur Causeway and we're hoping they come forward," Moreno told The Miami Herald on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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