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‘Walking Man’s’ Condition Improves Nearly 1 Month After Attacker Set Him On Fire

Joseph Kromelis, 75, has been upgraded from critical to serious condition at Stroger Hospital as he continues to recover from burns authorities thought would kill him.

The Walking Man
Gettnerman/Flickr
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CHICAGO — The “Walking Man” is starting to recover from the injuries he sustained after someone set him on fire last month while he slept on Lower Wabash Avenue, hospital personnel said.

Authorities feared Joseph Kromelis — the 75-year-old man known for walking the streets of Downtown — would die from burns that covered more than 50 percent of his body after the attack. But his condition has improved from critical to serious, according to a Stroger Hospital spokesperson.

Surveillance cameras captured the May 25 attack. A man — whom prosecutors have said was Joseph Guardia, 27 — doused Kromelis in gasoline from an extra large McDonald’s cup and lit him on fire. Guardia fled to his mother’s house in Melrose Park using the CTA while Kromelis burned alive for three minutes, prosecutors said.

A nearby security guard extinguished the fire and helped Kromelis get to a hospital. 

Guardia was charged with attempted murder and arson and is being held without bail after he admitted to setting the fire. He said he thought he was lighting a pile of blankets on fire even though Kromelis’ face and legs were visible. Guardia didn’t know Kromelis.

Kromelis — who has flowing gray hair, a distinct mustache and steady stride — is often recognized by Downtown regulars and has been the subject of countless photos. He was also hospitalized in 2016 after someone hit him with a baseball bat on Lower Wacker Drive. 

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