Cops Offer Reward After Chicago's 'Walking Man' Set on Fire

Homeless man Joseph Kromelis, a city fixture for decades, was attacked while sleeping on street
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2022 8:41 AM CDT
Cops Offer Reward After Chicago's 'Walking Man' Set on Fire
Surveillance photo of suspect released by police.   (Chicago Police Department via WLS)

(Newser) – A homeless man known to Chicago locals for decades as the "Walking Man" was severely burned this week after a brutal attack as he slept on the street. Police say 75-year-old Joseph Kromelis, was lying on the ground in the city's River North neighborhood around 3am Wednesday when someone ran up, doused him in a liquid, set him ablaze, and took off, reports CBS News. Cops say a security guard from a nearby building rushed to the scene with a fire extinguisher and put out the fire. Kromelis was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, said by the Chicago Sun-Times to have third-degree burns to more than 65% of his body.

"We were just told he's most likely to die," a law enforcement source tells the paper of Kromelis, a fixture on the Chicago landscape since his parents moved to Michigan when he was a teen. With his trademark long hair and mustache and tall stature, Kromelis is hard to miss in the city's downtown area—which has also made him a target in the past. He was previously attacked almost six years ago to the day, on May 24, 2016, when someone beat him with a baseball bat. He suffered cuts and other injuries to his head and legs, and people set up GoFundMe fundraisers in his name that brought in thousands of dollars.

"Abhorrent doesn't even come close, it's inhumane," a woman who set up one of the 2016 fundraisers says of the latest attack on Kromelis, saying she was "utterly horrified" to hear about it. Police have released surveillance photos of the suspect, who they say dashed into a nearby subway station after the attack. He's said to be a tall man with a medium-light complexion, sporting a black-and-white "Hoodrich" jacket and gray sandals. Two locals are offering a reward of $1,000 to help crack the case, reports WLS. Anyone with info can submit an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com or call 312-746-8261. (Read more Chicago stories.)

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