Wednesday Feb 02 2011
Principal dies from school shooting wound
By: Penne Usher, Gold Country News Service
Janitor claims he was 'fired'
PLACERVILLE — A Placerville elementary school custodian is in El Dorado County Jail charged with murder. John Luebbers, 44, is believed to have shot and killed Louisiana Schnell Elementary School’s principal Wednesday. Chief George Nielsen of the Placerville Police Department confirmed that 50-year-old principal Sam LaCara died after receiving a single gunshot wound to his upper torso Wednesday morning Luebbers was arrested without incident Wednesday afternoon. Nielsen said the motive is not yet known, however he indicated that there may have been a dispute between Luebbers and LaCara. According to police officials, Luebbers claims he had been fired from his job the morning of the shooting. According to school officials, LaCara had not fired Luebbers, but had sent him home to "cool off." Officials have not released the type of firearm used in the shooting. One student may have witnessed the shooting, which took place in LaCara’s office, Nielsen said. School officials were at the press conference, however, they declined to answer questions at that time, but said they would be issuing a press release this week. “This is a tragedy for Placerville,” Nielsen said Luebbers was arrested without incident earlier Wednesday afternoon at his Sky West Drive home in Placerville, authorities said. The estimated 400 students who attend the school were bused to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds to be reunited with their parents. Initially children were to be bused to the parking lot of the Mountain Democrat. The mixed messages led to confusion among parents. “The main issue with how to deal with students was the ongoing investigation and the crime scene,” Nielsen said. “Ultimately that was to remove them (to a nearby fairground) and get them back to their families.” A line of cars wound its way through the front area of the fairgrounds as parents anxiously awaited to be reunited with their children. Stephanie Duncan, of Placerville, has a 6-year-old daughter that attends Schnell School. She said her and her husband were in a meeting when they got the news. “My husband’s firefighter and his (co-workers) had called and said there was a shooting at the school,” Duncan said. “I was not Ok. It was really scary.” Nielsen said school officials did a good job ensuring the children’s safety. “Staff did an amazing job protecting the children,” Nielsen said. The school remains sealed so investigators can gather evidence, Nielsen said. As of press time it was not known if the school would re-open in the morning. Others in the education community praised LaCara for his dedication to his field. Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, described LaCara as a “role model.” LaCara was treasurer for the association. “Sam has been a role model to school leaders for his dedication to students and to public schools,” said Wells said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.