Sailor killed in Bahamas, Kyle Bruner, was from Chicago

May 13, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Police in the Bahamas confirm Kyle Bruner, 34, died in Nassau early Sunday. According to authorities, Bruner was shot in the neck while trying to help a woman who was being mugged on the street by three men wanting to steal her jewelry.

Bruner's parents live on Chicago's Northwest Side. Family members say the man was a former special education teacher who was following his passion of tall ships by working as a first mate on the Liberty Clipper , which was moving through the Bahamas. The ship was docked in Nassau when the shooting occurred.

Almost everything came easy for Bruner, relatives said. He played four musical instruments and was a gifted athlete, but his first love was sailing.

A life at sea aboard a tall ship seemed a perfect fit for Bruner, who friends describe as being a romantic at heart.

"There's something about the sight of one of those vessels, there's something about a wooden vessel, there's something about a traditionally-rigged wooden vessel. It's one of the most beautiful things you could imagine," said Ryan Downs, Bruner's former roommate and fellow sailor.

"This winter, I think he came to the realization that his life was going to be at sea," said father Rick Bruner.

On the morning of Mother's Day, Bruner's parents got a devastating phone call from the U.S. Embassy saying their son had been killed.

"It was very much and his character," Rick Bruner said. "He never liked bullies, and he never stood for people around him being bullied, and so, this was what he would do."

His crew mates were with him at the time of the incident. Downs says there are warnings about the rise in crime in the Bahamas.

"I've worked in Nassau, I've worked in the Bahamas and I knew it to be a dangerous place," said Downs.

Rick Bruner says his son just got his captain's license and would have been setting sail for Boston in about a week. The young sailor was hoping to soon work on a tall ship in Chicago.

"He used to say that the sea would try to kill you, and I said, 'Well look at it this way, it's always better to say that I did rather than I could have.' His life was short, but he did," the father said.

Bruner also was an artillery man in the Indiana Army National Guard, according to his family. He attended high school and college in Indiana before his family moved to Chicago.

Monday, family members were making funeral arrangements fitting for a man who saw his future at sea.

"He'll be cremated, and then one of the tall ships will scatter his ashes on the ocean," said Rick Bruner.

Meanwhile, detectives in the Bahamas said one person was in custody for the shooting, but they were still looking for two other suspects Monday.

The state department has a warning on its website about the criminal threat in Nassau - calling it "critical" - with tourists being warned about a rise in "snatch and grab" crimes.

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