Neighborhood residents say Hayes has been very much involved in improving the community.
Hayes suffered burns on 90 percent of his body. He has been the owner of the building for more than 30 years. It was 2 a.m. when the South Side landlord answered the front door to an acquaintance. Police say a man in his 20s doused him with gasoline and threw a match at him.
"Somebody was banging on the door hollering for help. When my friend came downstairs and told me to call the police, that's what I did. I looked out the window, he was burned all over," said Kathy Hinton, neighbor.
Hinton says Hayes was so badly burned that she only recognized her neighbor by his voice.
Chicago police say they have a good idea who committed the crime. Now it's only a matter of making the arrest.
"We're pressing on with the investigation, and hopefully plan to have some results today," said Det. Andrew Watkins, Chicago Police Dept.
According to neighbors, the suspect is a former tenant who had been kicked out of the building by Hayes for selling drugs. The 77-year-old has owned the apartment building for over 30 years. Those who know him say he's spent a lifetime trying to make this neighborhood a safer and cleaner place to live.
"Harlan Hayes is one of the best guys you will ever want to meet. Wonderful neighbor, wonderful guy. Always trying to help this block and people who lived on the block," said Rev. Leon Finney, community leader.
"He was in charge of sending out petitions that would help get rid of the liquor store or the gangs or anything that was trouble around here," said Leonard Susberry, victim's friend.
Hayes also tried to help his tenants. Years ago, Susberry, one of his tenants caught on fire from a hot plate and Hayes put it out.