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'Walking Man' Joseph Kromelis released from Stroger Hospital to rehab facility nearly four months after he was set on fire

CBS Chicago 9/23/2022 CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Joseph Kromelis, known to many in Chicago as "Walking Man," has been released from Stroger Hospital nearly four months after he was set on fire in River North in May.

Cook County health officials confirmed he will continue to recover at a rehab facility.  

"He expects to undergo additional surgeries as part of his recovery," Officials said in a written release. "He is grateful for everyone's concern and asks that his privacy be respected."

Kromelis had been in critical condition and had not been expected to survive after the attack. His condition continued to be upgraded over the last four months. 

Joseph Guardia, 27, is charged with aggravated arson and attempted murder in the attack on Kromelis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 25, on Lower Wabash Avenue near Trump Tower. In announcing the allegations against Guardia, Cook County prosecutors had said Kromelis was not expected to survive.

At Guardia's bond hearing, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Danny Hanichak said Kromelis, 75, was sleeping on the apron of a parking garage on the 400 block of North Wabash Avenue around 3 a.m. May 25, when Guardia walked past him, holding a cup of gasoline in his hand. 

After first walking past Kromelis to the intersection of Kinzie Street and Wabash Avenue, Hanichak said Guardia then walked back to where Kromelis was sleeping, poured the gasoline on his head, and lit him on fire.

The flames quickly spread to Kromelis' entire upper body, and he was on fire for approximately three minutes before a security officer from a nearby building was able to get a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, according to Hanichak.

Known for his signature long hair, and mustache, and often seen wearing a sport coat, Kromelis is affectionately called "The Walking Man" by Chicagoans who have seen him frequently roaming the city's streets for decades. Some say he reminds them of George Harrison, others Yanni.

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