Sacto 9-1-1
February 2, 2011
Authorities investigate possible dispute between slain principal, suspect

Connie and Don Rood.JPG

Caption: Parents Connie and Don Rood stand at the intersection of Highway 50 and Schnell School Road in Placerville waiting for information about the shooting at Louisiana Schnell Elementary School. The Roods have two children who attend the school, one in kindergarten and one in fourth grade. Photo by Randy Pench

By Kim Minugh and Cathy Locke

Authorities are investigating whether there may have been a dispute between the principal slain today in his Placerville office and the janitor suspected of shooting him, said Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen.

Principal Sam LaCara, left, and suspect John Luebbers

Nielsen said the suspect may have confronted the principal over some perceived grievance.

"It's not really clear whether there was a dispute. It appears there had been a discussion" before the shooting, he said.

Sam LaCara, the principal at Louisiana Schnell Elementary School in Placerville, was shot to death today in his office on campus.

Nielsen said at least one student may have witnessed the shooting.

LaCara, 50, died at Marshall Hospital from a single gunshot wound, the police chief said.

The suspected shooter has been identified as John Luebbers, 43, a custodian at the school. Nielsen said Luebbers was taken into custody at his home by El Dorado County sheriff's deputies. The police chief said he did not believe Luebbers had a previous criminal record.

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 the afternoon news conference.

He said that the suspect had been arrested and that all the schoolchildren were safe.

Worried parents rushed to pick up, hug and reassure their children after authorities had them evacuated in El Dorado Transit buses to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.

The shooting was reported to emergency personnel about 10:37 a.m. this morning.

Nielsen said LaCara suffered a gunshot wound to the torso. He was taken to Marshall Medical Center and was pronounced dead at 11:16 a.m.

For the safety of students and to protect the crime scene and investigation, Nielsen said the school was placed in lockdown and students were bused to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, where they are being released to parents.

Parents who waited a good distance from the campus on Schnell School Road were acquainted with the custodian one parent knew only as John.

Sharon Neu, the mother of a 9-year-old student, said parents have been trying to get rid of the janitor for a long time because he was mean to the kids.

"My kid was scared to death of him," she said.

Another parent said Luebbers was grumpy, complaining about broken sprinklers.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

Sam LaCara photo courtesy of Life Touch.

Parents react outside Schnell school

KCRA: Officer: 'This is a traumatic experience'

Key links:

Louisiana Schnell school, principal Sam LaCara
GreatSchools Profile
California Education Department, Dataquest Statistical Profile
Schnell Elementary School on Facebook

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