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Local sailor killed in Colorado shootings had ‘incredible mind’

U.S. Navy personnel visit Larimer family Saturday July 21 2012 Crystal Lake. John Larimer A Navy sailor who grew up

U.S. Navy personnel visit the Larimer family Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Crystal Lake. John Larimer, A Navy sailor who grew up in Crystal Lake, was killed in a shooting rampage at a theater in Aurora, CO, on July 20. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 23, 2012 10:54AM

A U.S. Navy sailor from Crystal Lake who was described by family as having an “incredible mind” and “quiet gentleness” was among the 12 killed when a gunman opened fire at a Colorado multiplex.

John Larimer’s family confirmed Saturday morning that the sailor had been killed in the rampage. After hours of frantic uncertainty, the military reached out to inform them of Larimer’s death shortly after midnight, the family said in a statement.

And 12 hours later, three military personnel were seen going into the family’s home to provide the grieving family with more details. Larimer’s brother was working with the Navy to bring the 27-year-old sailor’s body back home to the Chicago area, the family said in a statement.

“We love you, John, and we will miss you always,” they said.

“He was a wonderful young man,” said Larimer’s aunt, Karen Lavin, as she made her way inside the home Saturday. “What a terrible, terrible loss this is for everyone who knew him.”

Neighbors described the family as tight-knit. There was no empty nest syndrome for Larimer’s parents, one neighbor said: Their five children always come home to visit.

“John was only 27 with an incredible life waiting for him,” another aunt, Randee Larimer wrote on Facebook. “He will be remembered by a large close family and countless friends. John had incredible mind, a rapier wit, and quiet gentleness that will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”

Larimer, a cryptologic technician, joined the U.S. Navy on June 16, 2011, officials said. The Petty Officer Third Class had been stationed in Aurora, Colo. since October. Larimer was one of at least two people from the Chicago area attending the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in the multiplex when a gunman, wearing a gas mask and black SWAT gear, opened fire inside the crowded movie theater.

The Navy says another sailor was treated and released for injuries from the shooting. Both sailors were from a unit that belongs to U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet, located at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., according to the Navy.

“I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer — he was an outstanding shipmate,” Larimer’s commanding officer, Jeffrey Jakuboski, said in a statement. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John’s family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all victims of this horrible tragedy.”

Larimer’s teachers and classmates at Crystal Lake South High School, where Larimer graduated in 2003, said Saturday that her was very active in the school’s theater program and played trombone in the school’s band.

“John was always fun to be around,” classmate Brittney Venetucci said. “He always had a joke to tell and always had a positive attitude about everything.”

He had roles in the “The Curious Savage,” “The Princess and the Pea,” and “Camelot,” she said. School officials said the cast of The Curious Savage was invited to perform the play at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival in Bloomington during Larimer’s senior year.

“He was a very bright young man,” school principal Marsha Pothoff said. “... He was positive. You knew he cared about school and what he was involved with.”

Larimer attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he majored in history and political science and graduated in 2008, a school spokesman confirmed.

“He wasn’t the most talkative guy, but he was a personable young man and a serious student,” said Susan Johnson, chair of the political science department at UW-Whitewater, who taught Larimer in her American Presidency course in 2005. “He just seemed like a really genuine and sincere human being.”

“... I’m not surprised he decided to join the military. He always had a strong drive to defend his country.”

Friends from all over posted condolences on Larimer’s Facebook page Saturday.

“I am so mad, just so mad,” one friend wrote. “I want to debate politics, whiskey, women and life with you. I am so very upset, I feel for your family, all of your friends. One of the nicest guys from probably the nicest family ever. You will be missed greatly.”

Contributing: Natasha Korecki, John Kim, Matt McKinney, AP

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