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Girlfriend: Crystal Lake sailor ‘a hero,’ saved my life

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 25, 2012 6:07AM

John Larimer wanted to save others from danger.

“John adamantly wanted to make a difference in the world, and he thought that his military service would be the best chance for him to do so,” his girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek, 20 of Algonquin said Monday.

It was Vojtsek he ended up saving when a gunman burst into the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and opened fire last week.

Vojtsek described Monday how Larimer, the 27-year-old sailor from Crystal Lake who was one of the 12 killed by the gunman, protected her.

“John and I were seated in the middle area. When the violence occurred, John immediately and instinctively covered me and brought me to the ground in order to protect me from any danger,” she said in a written statement given to the Sun-Times by her mother, Kelley Vojtsek.

“Moments later, John knowingly shielded me from a spray of gunshots. It was then, I believe, John was hit with a bullet that would have very possibly struck me. I feel very strongly that I was saved by John and his ultimate kindness.”

Earlier Monday, she told WFLD-Channel 32, “he’s just a hero.”

“He held my head tight and put his body in front of mine,” she told the station.

Vojtsek said Larimer was excited to see the new Batman movie at the Aurora theater. They’d heard people were going to see it in costume, so they stopped at a Walmart and he got a Batman T-shirt, mask and cape that he wore to the theater.

Vojtsek, a nursing student, and Larimer knew each other for six years but started dating only in the past three weeks. She was in Colorado because her father was working there.

She said Larimer, a Navy petty officer and cryptologic technician who had been stationed in Colorado since October, was “always putting himself before others.”

After the shooting started, she told WFLD, “I just stayed down as long as I could.”

Afterward, “We tried to get John, but he was unresponsive,” she said. “It seemed like he was gone.”

Asked about James Holmes, the man accused of killing her boyfriend and the others, Vojtsek said, “I just don’t even know there could so much evil.”

In her statement, Vojtsek said she had recently spoken with Larimer about the future.

“Weeks earlier, John and I had a conversation about his further advancement in the military . . . He wanted to be deployed for two simple reasons: He wanted to protect his country, and he wanted to save others from danger and harm.”

Larimer was a 2003 graduate of Crystal Lake South High School, where he was active in theater, and he graduated in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a degree in history and political science.

Adam Kavalauskas, a close friend of Larimer for years, said Monday he got worried when he heard about the shooting.

“I went to Facebook and saw his wall,” Kavalauskas said. “I saw Julia had written ‘Batman.’ I thought they were there or maybe nearby.

“I messaged her. I messaged John: ‘You OK? Were you anywhere near that Aurora theater? She messaged back: ‘Call me’ and gave me her phone. I called, and I could tell in her voice something was definitely wrong. After that, she had given me some details. I got off the phone. We texted and called up until we found out… until things were confirmed that night. John and Julia had known each other for quite some time. I had heard of Julia through John, I knew they were together. But I had not met her until she landed on Sunday.”

Larimer’s father, Scott Larimer, said Monday that the family hasn’t been told yet when the body will be released, so they haven’t been able to make funeral arrangements yet.

At an appearance in Chicago on Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn praised Larimer as an “American hero.”

“He was with his girlfriend at the movie, and he saved her life in the theater,” Quinn said. “It’s important that we not forget, ever, the special life of John Larimer. We thank God for giving him to us, and we ask God to give him eternal rest.”

Asked whether the Colorado tragedy should prompt Illinois to change its law that bans people from carrying concealed guns, Quinn said no.

“The idea of allowing people to carry loaded weapons that are hidden on their person and be able to go in public places, whether it’s a movie theater or shopping center . . . I just don’t think that’s a good way to prevent violence,” Quinn said.

Contributing: Chris Fusco

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