Police in Chicago are looking for a suspect who set fire to a 75-year-old homeless man, widely known throughout the city as “Walking Dude,” early Wednesday morning, according to reports.
Police said the attack happened around 2:50 a.m. by Trump Tower in the 400 block of North Wabash Avenue when a suspect approached 75-year-old Joseph Kromelis lying on the ground and covered him in a flammable liquid, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The stranger “then proceeded to ignite the victim before fleeing the scene,” the Chicago Police Department outlined in a statement, according to the outlet.
Over 40 percent of Kromelis’s body was burned before a security guard was able to douse the blaze with a fire extinguisher, and the victim, in critical condition, was subsequently conveyed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, CBS Chicago noted. The outlet further verified through police sources that Kromelis is the victim.
In the height of the pandemic, walking the Loop was Gotham-y. I loved seeing, and saying ‘hi’ to the shy, famed “Walking Man” Joseph Kromelis. He was critically burned – > over 40% of his body, set on fire — overnight near Trump Tower. Man. 🙏🏼
Here’s a pic I took in 2020. pic.twitter.com/N5kg1LlpX8
— Brad Edwards (@tvbrad) May 25, 2022
Police said the suspect jumped on a blue line train after fleeing the scene.
“The Offender is described as a tall male with a medium-light complexion, wearing a black and white ‘Hoodrich’ jacket and grey sandals,” CBS Chicago noted.
UPDATE: Chicago police have released surveillance images of the suspect believed to have set a homeless man on fire overnight. The victim is Joseph 'Walking Man' Kromelis. … https://t.co/B9aoZIMW6S pic.twitter.com/CEyQU0gReV
— WBBM Newsradio (@WBBMNewsradio) May 25, 2022
Kromelis, who CWB Chicago notes is called “Walking Man” or “Walking Dude” by those who live in the city, was the subject of a vicious baseball bat beating in 2016 that sent him to the hospital for weeks, according to the Tribune.
His nephew, Vytas Vaitkus, told CBS at the time that the attack was so brutal Kromelis’s “eyes were almost gouged out.”
A woman named Janice Riggs established a GoFundMe page to benefit Kromelis after the 2016 incident, and the crowdfunding page was eventually turned over to his family, the Tribune noted. After hearing of the latest attack on Walking Man, Riggs was devastated.
“I’m crushed. I think this is horrible thing to attack someone who is nothing more than a friend to everyone around Chicago,” she explained. “He’s is a totally harmless individual. To single him out for this kind of abuse is shocking and inhuman.”