Image: John Luebbers is suspected of fatally shooting a Placerville, Calif., principal Wednesday.
Placerville Police Dept. via AP
John Luebbers is suspected of fatally shooting a Placerville, Calif., principal Wednesday.
updated 2/3/2011 8:42:58 PM ET 2011-02-04T01:42:58

A school janitor told investigators he went home and got a gun before returning to an elementary school and killing a principal who had fired him several hours earlier, authorities said Thursday.

John Luebbers, 44, was arrested at his home Wednesday after the killing of Sam LaCara, 50, principal of Louisiana Schnell Elementary School in Placerville.

No children were injured in the shooting, but police said one child might have seen the attack in the school office.

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Placerville Union School District Superintendent Nancy Lynch said LaCara had sent Luebbers home for the day after the janitor became upset over an unspecified personnel matter.

Lynch said LaCara did not fire Luebbers, because final employment decisions are made by the local education board with her input. She added that the two men "had a good relationship."

When asked if Luebbers misunderstood his employment status, Lynch said: "That may have been it."

"He was upset about a disagreement," Lynch said. "Mr. LaCara thought he needed to go home and cool off for the day." Luebbers' mother, MaryAnn Phillips, said her son was friends with LaCara, and the two had gone golfing Sunday.

She declined further comment to The Associated Press, but told The Sacramento Bee, "I really can't begin to imagine why he did it or how he did it."

She also told the newspaper her son had worked at the school for more than eight years.

The school district closed all three of its schools Thursday.

No one answered the phone at the district office to explain why Luebbers had been fired. An e-mail message sent to the superintendent was not returned.

Luebbers was expected to be arraigned Friday. El Dorado County prosecutors declined to specify the charges until then.

Residents gathered Wednesday night to mourn LaCara, a married father of three daughters. About 300 people, many of them students, former students and parents, held a candlelight vigil at the school entrance.

The curb was filled with candles, flowers and balloons.

"He's like a father to all the kids in school," Patrick Fountain told the newspaper. He said his 10-year-old daughter, Donna Zessin-Fountain, attends the school.

Story: Police: Janitor fatally shoots N. California principal

The school district closed all three of its schools Thursday. It planned to reopen them Friday and make counselors available to students.

The Placerville Police Department also offered its condolences to the family and to staff and students of the Placerville Union School District.

The shooting prompted a lockdown of the 400-student campus about 50 miles east of Sacramento. Students were taken to the county fairground, where they were released to their parents.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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