Chicago's 'Walking Man' heads to rehab facility nearly 4 months after being set on fire downtown

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Friday, September 23, 2022
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Joseph Kromelis, the famed "Walking Man" of Chicago, has been discharged to a rehab facility nearly 4 months after he was set on fire downtown.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Joseph Kromelis - the famed "Walking Man" of downtown Chicago - has been discharged from the hospital to a rehab facility nearly four months after he was set on fire while sleeping near Trump Tower.

Kromelis is expected to undergo additional surgeries as part of his recovery, according to Cook County Health spokeswoman Alexandra Normington. He said he is grateful for everyone's concern and asks that his privacy be respected.

The video featured is from a previous report.

Kromelis suffered third-degree burns to more than half of his body when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire May 25. Doctors said at the time that he would be unable to recover from the injuries.

"When people survive these burn injuries, unlike a lot of other traumatic injuries, burn injuries take a distinctly long and arduous process to treat and recover from," said Dr. Joshua Carson, Director of Loyola Medicine's Burn Center.

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A third-degree injury burns all the way through the skin, meaning it may be unable to heal on its own. Even a small one can stay with you for a long time, Carson said.

"Burns that large are incredibly toxic to the body so the thing about them is that the burn being there makes the patient sick, and then you have to remove them," Carson added. "When you do that you leave the patient without some critical organ function, And that makes a patient very vulnerable to infection and to other kinds of complications."

Joseph Guardia, 27, has been charged with attacking Kromelis. He has offered no motive to police other than he is an "angry person," according to prosecutors.

RELATED | Chicago's 'Walking Man' lit on fire while sleeping on street downtown, police source says

Kromelis had been sleeping under blankets in the 400 block of North Lower Wabash Avenue when surveillance cameras captured Guardia walk up and stand over him silently for 16 seconds, prosecutors said.

The video allegedly shows Guardia pour gasoline over Kromelis' uncovered head and ignite it.

Guardia left as Kromelis' entire upper body was engulfed in flames, prosecutors said. Kromelis tried to put out the fire but finally slumped against a garage door. Two security guards from Trump Tower came to his aid before an ambulance arrived.

"We have to hope for the best for the man - he is on a very long path," Carson said.

Kromelis is well known to people who frequent downtown Chicago, easily recognized by his tall frame, striking facial features, long flowing hair and bushy mustache.

Six years ago - on May 24, 2016 - he was brutally beaten by someone with a baseball bat in the 400 block of East Lower Wacker Drive. The two were struggling over the bat when police arrived.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.