Police ask for help finding attacker who set beloved “Walking Man” on fire in River North

Chicago police have released surveillance images of the man who set a well-loved homeless man on fire in River North early Wednesday.

Joseph Kromelis, 75, commonly known downtown as the “Walking Man” and “Walking Dude,” was sleeping near the Trump Tower loading dock at Lower Wabash and Kinzie Street when the offender poured a flammable liquid on him and set it ablaze around 2:50 a.m. Wednesday.

Police are trying to identify this man in connection with the brutal attack of Joseph Kromelis, known affectionately as Chicago’s “Walking Man” and “Walking Dude.” | CPD

Police said the offender fled into a CTA Blue Line station after the horrific attack, which CPD said left Kromelis critically injured with burns over half of his body.

The suspect is tall and wore a Hoodrich-brand sweatshirt with gray sandals, police said in a “seeking to identify” bulletin. Anyone who has information about the suspect can call Area Three detectives at 312-746-8261 about case #JF-254640.

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

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