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Police: Janitor fatally shoots N. California principal

A janitor fatally shot an elementary school in Placerville, Calif., on Wednesday, police said.
Image: John Leubbers
John Luebbers is suspected of fatally shooting a Placerville, Calif., principal Wednesday.Placerville Police Dept. via AP
/ Source: news services

A janitor fatally shot an elementary school principal in Placerville, Calif., Wednesday, police said.

The shooting occurred at about 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET) in the principal's office at Schnell Elementary School in the Sierra foothills town of Placerville, about 20 miles northeast of Sacramento, the state capital.

The janitor, identified as John Luebbers, 43, fled the scene on foot to his home, where he was arrested, Police Chief George Nielsen said.

Principal Sam LaCara, 50, died at Marshall Hospital from a single gunshot wound to the torso, Nielsen said.

No one else was hurt or threatened with violence in the incident, said Capt. Larry Marinas of the El Dorado County Fire Department, but the shooting prompted a security lockdown at the school that lasted for at least two hours.

The motive for the shooting remained unclear but the two apparently had a dispute, Nielsen said.

An online notice posted on the Placerville Union School District website said only that a shooting had occurred at the Schnell School campus and that all students were safe and under a classroom lockdown.

Buses eventually arrived at the school to transport students to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, where they will be reunited with parents, NBC station KCRA reported.

Parents said LaCara did a good job at the school, KCRA said. Some parents described Luebbers as "grumpy" and "rude" toward some students.

The El Dorado County office of Education said Thursday classes at all three Placerville district schools are canceled.

LaCara was the married father of three daughters and a respected school administrator known for his sense of humor and love of sports. He lived near Carmichael.

"It's a tragedy for Placerville and our entire society," Nielsen said at an afternoon news conference.