CHICAGO — A Melrose Park man was charged Sunday with setting the 75-year-old widely known as Downtown’s “Walking Man” on fire last week, badly burning over 65 percent of his body, police said.
Joseph Guardia, 27, was charged with attempted murder and arson in Wednesday’s early morning attack on Joseph Kromelis, who was lying on a Lower Wabash Avenue sidewalk when he was doused with an accelerant and set on fire, police said.
Surveillance cameras in a nearby Blue Line station captured images of the suspected arsonist as he fled the scene, police said.
Police said Kromelis was taken to Northwestern Memorial hospital following the attack. A police source told the Sun-Times that “we were just told he’s most likely to die.”
A nearby security guard used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire and help the victim, police said. He was identified through the medications he was carrying, the Sun-Times reported.
Guardia was arrested Friday in the 2400 block of West Belmont Avenue, police said. He is due in court Monday, where details on the investigation and what may have led to the attack could be detailed.
The famed “Walking Man” treks the streets of Downtown with flowing gray hair, a distinctive mustache and a steady stride. He’s well known to Downtown regulars, and has been the subject of countless photos of people who recognize him.
He was also attacked in 2016 on Lower Wacker Drive. Police said someone with a baseball bat struck him, leaving him hospitalized in serious condition.
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