Attacker set Chicago’s “Walking Man” on fire as he slept in River North overnight; critical condition

Joseph Kromelis, known affectionately as Chicago’s “Walking Man,” is hospitalized and critically injured after someone set him on fire as he slept near the Trump Tower loading dock in River North overnight.

Kromelis, who turned 75 in January, suffered burns over half of his body, according to Chicago police, who did not identify him by name.

Surveillance footage shows a person approaching Kromelis as he slept near the corner of Lower Wabash and Kinzie Street around 2:50 a.m. The attacker poured a liquid, possibly lighter fluid, on him and his blankets, then set him on fire.

Joseph Kromelis, known affectionately as Chicago’s “Walking Man” and “Walking Dude,” is seen in July 2018. | The1stMikeC via YouTube

Security guards put the fire out and summoned help. EMS took Kromelis to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The offender wore a white hoodie, white hat, black pants, and black shoes, but their race and sex was not immediately known. They were last seen heading west on Kinzie Street, police said.

In 2016, Kromelis was badly injured when someone beat him with their fists and a baseball bat on Lower Wacker Drive. He eventually recovered and once again began his regular walks through the streets of downtown. Crowdsource funding raised more than $30,000 to offset his medical costs at the time.

“He has been walking and peddling on the streets of Chicago for at least the last 40 years,” Vytas Vaitkus, whose mother was Kromelis’s sister, told Loop North News in 2016. “The streets are his home; the place he has always felt at home until [the 2016 attack].”

His sister-in-law told the outlet that Kromelis moved to Chicago from Lithuania and grew up above a bar on Halsted Street

“When Joseph was 19 years old, his parents sold the bar and moved to Michigan. Joseph stayed in Chicago and sold jewelry and other items on the streets in the Loop,” Steven Dahlman reported.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com