As local governments across South Florida begin looking into ways to ban synthetic drugs, some police agencies are warning residents and their own officers about the potential violence associated with them.
The warnings come amid speculation that Rudy Eugene was under the influence of synthetic drugs known as bath salts last month when he attacked a homeless man and chewed on his face in Miami.
On Sunday, police in North Miami Beach issued an alert to all sworn officers about the dangers of the drugs after a homeless man allegedly tried to bite an officer's hand while under the influence of synthetic marijuana.
Brandon De Leon, 21, was arrested Saturday after he allegedly went into a Boston Market in North Miami Beach and yelled profanities at customers and two officers who were present. While being taken to jail, De Leon allegedly began slamming his head on a glass divider inside a squad car and yelled "I am going to eat you" at one of the officers, according to the arrest report.
De Leon later tried to bite an officer's hand as he was being treated for his injuries, according to the report. Police said they learned De Leon had taken synthetic pot called "Cloud 9" along with an alcoholic/energy beverage called Four Loko, according to the report.
In an "Officer Safety" e-mail sent to all sworn officer in North Miami Beach, administrators wrote:
"This bears resemblance to the incident that occurred in the City of Miami last week when a male ate another man's face."
In Broward County, most police agencies contacted on Tuesday said that last month's face-chewing incident highlights the violence often associated with the drugs. It's still not known whether Eugene was under the influence of bath salts, or any drug. However, administrators said they haven't changed any procedures when it comes to dealing with people under the influence.
"[Synthetic drugs] have always been an issue going back to the days of LSD," said Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner. "It's something that we train officers during basic training to always be on the look out for."
Major Tommy Ford of the Bay County Sheriff's Office said his agency in the state's panhandle has been warning residents and deputies about synthetic drugs since last year. The agency is widely credited in pushing state authorities into banning "bath salts" earlier this year.
As part of public education against the perils of synthetic drugs, the agency released a video late last year of a young man screaming and yelling incoherently while sitting in the back of a squad car. The man, who was not identified, was under the influence of bath salts, Ford said.
"We wanted to show people what these drugs can do," Ford said.
News of this weekend's incident in North Miami Beach came at the same time as local governments began exploring ways to crack down on the drugs that are commonly sold in convenience stores.
Among the cities looking into taking action include Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach, and Miami-Dade County.