A Crystal Lake man who became a fourth generation sailor when he joined the U.S. Navy in 2011 was among those killed in the shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater.
John Larimer, a Petty Officer 3rd Class, is one of 12 who have died in the massacre at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo.
A 2003 graduate of Crystal Lake South High School, Larimer was remembered Saturday by a former classmate as someone who "could light up a room."
He was always a funny, quirky guy,” Brittney Venetucci, 26, of Hampshire, said. “He was real smart, and always could light up a room. He was a real joy to be around.”
Venetucci participated in theater with Larimer at South, where they performed in a play together called “The Curious Savage.”
Being in theater "gave him a chance to be expressive," Venettuci said.
Venetucci and Larimer kept in touch with each other via Facebook in the last year. She would say hi and see how he was doing in the Navy. "He was enjoying it," Venetucci said. When Venetucci heard about Friday's shooting, she never thought there would be a local connection. "You hear about the shooting, [but] you don't think anybody you know is affected."
In the hours immediately after Friday morning's shootings, Larimer was reported as missing.
But official notification of his death came to the family at their Crystal Lake home about midnight last night, his father, Scott Larimer, said. "It's part of our family heritage," Scott Larimer said this morning of his son's service in the Navy. "You expect to be in harm's way in a combat zone, not in a theater in Denver."
Larimer had been stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora since October 2011. He joined the Navy in June 2011.
"Last night about midnight, a Navy notification team arrived at our house to let us officially know that our 27-year-old son, John, was in fact one of the 12 killed at the theater in Aurora, Colorado," the family said in a statement.
"At this point our other son Noel is in Denver working with the Navy and the family here in Illinois to make arrangements to bring John home. We respectfully ask that the family and friends of John be allowed time and privacy to grieve for John and we send our thoughts and prayers out to the families of the other victims and those still recovering in the hospital. We love you John and we will miss you always."
Larimer's commanding officer also released a statement Saturday, expressing his sympathies.
"I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer," Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski said. "He was an outstanding shipmate. 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."
In addition to acting in “The Curious Savage,” Larimer also played Camelot in the student production of “The Princes and the Pea,” according to his high school year book. He also was one of a handful of seniors involved in the Mr. CLS program that raised $2,700 for the American Cancer Society.
As the Larimer family grieved, many in the community expressed their sympathy on Facebook and other social media outlets.
"My prayers and thoughts out to his family," Peggy Basura of Carpentersville said on the Northwest Herald's Facebook page.
Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley called the deaths horrifying. "The whole circumstance was very horrifying at every level," Shepley said. "You immediately do the transference, 'well, can it happen here?' And then you find out someone local dies in it ... it brings it that much closer to home." Shepley also noted that Crystal Lake has lost four servicemen in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. Marine Capt. Nathan R. McHone died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in January, Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Collins of Crystal Lake, was killed Aug. 8, 2004 in Iraq, Army Sgt. Jason A. McLeod of Crystal Lake, was killed Nov. 23, 2009, in Afghanistan; and Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Antonik of Crystal Lake, died July 11, 2010, in Afghanistan. "And then to have something like this happen, there's no rhyme or reason to any of it," he said. "Obviously, the whole community is sad, not just for the family, but for the country and the town where this happened. Our deepest condolences go out to them. Our community has always been very supportive of families going through this kind of situation, and they will be here."
State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi lives near the Larimer’s Crystal Lake home, though he didn’t know the family. He was out jogging Saturday morning when he saw media trucks parked outside the home. That’s when he realized what had happened. “Everyone in the neighborhood is devastated by this,” Bianchi said. “You feel like crying for the family. When it’s closer to home, you feel it more emotionally. I was really speechless.” Bianchi noted that John Larimer enlisted in the military to help protect the country, yet he wasn’t safe in a movie theater. “I’m beginning to think there is no safe place anywhere,” he said. He said that cutbacks to social service agencies that provide programming to those in need, such as the mentally ill, aren’t helping. “I don’t mean to get political about this, but I have strong, strong feelings about it,” he said. “As you know, the governor and the legislature have cut funding to services for those with mental health issues. That’s the wrong place to cut. We have too much government. Cut from other places. I can’t imagine what’s going in Springfield and in Washington. ... We all have to do more to stop the violence.”