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A Melrose Park man was charged Sunday with setting fire to a known homeless man in River North.
Joseph Guardia, 27, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and arson with bodily harm. He is due in bond court Monday afternoon. Exactly what prosecutors believe happened and what Guardia’s motive may have been could be revealed during the hearing.
Joseph Kromelis, 75, commonly known downtown as the “Walking Man” and the “Walking Dude,” was sleeping near the Trump Tower loading dock at Lower Wabash and Kinzie Street when the offender poured a flammable liquid on him and he set it on fire around 2:50. tomorrow wednesday.
Police said the offender fled to a CTA Blue Line station after the horrific attack, which CPD says left Kromelis critically injured with burns over half of his body. Detectives released surveillance footage of the shooter later the same day they tried to identify the offender.
Kromelis remains in serious condition and he may not survive, according to a source.
Police in Chicago arrested Guardia 13 times between 2014 and 2018 for misdemeanors including retail shoplifting, burglary, CTA burglary and simple assault. Most of the arrests were made in Lakeview, Uptown and downtown. He has not been arrested by CPD since 2018. However, records show that he has been charged with multiple suburban robberies since then.
Almost exactly six years before this week’s attack, Kromelis was seriously injured when someone beat him with their fists and a baseball bat on Lower Wacker Drive. He eventually recovered and once again began his regular walks through the downtown streets. The crowdfunding raised over $30,000 to offset his medical costs at the time.
“He’s been walking and riding the streets of Chicago for at least the last 40 years,” Vytas Vaitkus, whose mother was Kromelis’s sister, told Loop North News in 2016. “The streets are home to him; the place where he has always felt at home until [the 2016 attack].
His sister-in-law told the outlet that Kromelis moved to Chicago from Lithuania and grew up above a bar on Halsted Street.
“When Joseph was 19 years old, his parents sold the bar and moved to Michigan. Joseph stayed in Chicago and sold jewelry and other items on the streets of the Loop,” reported Steven Dahlman.
CWBChicago will post an update after Guardia’s bond hearing on Monday.