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 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.
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.