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‘Walking Man’ Doing Better, Now In Fair Condition

The condition of local legend Joseph "Walking Man" Kromelis has been steadily improving after someone lit him on fire in May.

The Walking Man
Gettnerman/Flickr
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CHICAGO — The “Walking Man” has improved and is now in fair condition over a month after someone set him on fire, hospital personnel said Friday.

It was once feared Joseph Kromelis — a 75-year-old man known for walking Downtown — would die from burns on more than 50 percent of his body after the attack. But his condition went from critical to serious last week, and he now has been upgraded to fair, a Stroger Hospital spokesperson said.

The attack happened May 25. A man, whom prosecutors have identified as 27-year-old Joseph Guardia, doused Kromelis with gasoline from a McDonald’s cup and lit him on fire. Kromelis burned alive for three minutes while Guardia fled, prosecutors said.

Credit: Chicago Police
Police released these photos of a man they believe to be Joseph Guardia, who is being held without bail for allegedly lighting Joseph “Walking Man” Kromelis on fire.

Guardia did not know Kromelis. A nearby security guard extinguished the fire and helped Kromelis get to the hospital.

Guardia admitted to setting Kromelis on fire and is being held without bail on charges of attempted murder and arson. He said he thought he was lighting a pile of blankets, despite Kromelis’ face and legs being visible. Surveillance cameras captured the attack.

Kromelis — with his flowing gray hair, distinctive mustache and steady stride — is a steady presence Downtown and a subject of local lore, often stopping for photos.

Kromelis was also hospitalized in 2016 after someone hit him with a baseball bat on Lower Wacker Drive. 

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