The attack occurred outside the loading bay of Trump Tower on North Lower Wabash, early on Wednesday morning, when the 75-year-old victim was doused in a flammable liquid and then set alight, causing severe injuries.
A security official working nearby put the flames out with an extinguisher, Fox32 reported, and the homeless man was taken to Northwestern Hospital.
A law enforcement official told the Chicago Sun Times that “he’s most likely to die”, with the man experiencing burns on 65 per cent of his body.
He was identified as ‘The Walking Man’, whose real name is Joseph Kromelis, thanks to prescriptions found in his pockets, the report said.
Images released by the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday showed a white man wearing a white and grey-coloured “Hoodrich” jacket with a hood, the suspect.
The pictures were reportedly captured after the suspect fled the scene via the Chicago Blue Line metro train, which he caught towards O’Hare International Airport. He remains in the run.
Many have expressed sadness and shock at the death, which comes amid calls for action on the city’s homelessness.
“For folks living out here on the streets, it’s not safe,” said Ali Simmons of the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “There is violence out here. We need to make sure everyone has somewhere safe to go”.
Mr Simmons has been among those calling for safe shelters to be created to house the Chicago homeless community, as well as more affordable housing.
“It’s time out for passing the buck and not doing anything about a problem that we know is very serious and it’s costing people their lives,” Mr Simmons was reported as saying.
The attack comes after a 30-year-old man was arrested and charged with the deaths of five homeless people between Washington DC and New York.