Janitor fatally shoots Placerville school principal

In this undated photo provided by the Placerville Police Department, John Leubbers is shown. Authorities arrested Leubbers, a janitor, after an administrator was shot at a Northern California elementary school Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011l. Leubbers was arrested at his home about an hour after authorities launched a manhunt, Placerville police Capt. Mike Scott told KCRA. (AP Photo/Placerville Police Department)

February 2, 2011 6:23:52 PM PST
An elementary school custodian shot and killed the school principal in Placerville. The school was placed on lockdown after the shooting inside the principal's office at 10:30 a.m.

The children were taken to nearby fairgrounds, where their anxious parents waited to pick them up, and they added this will be difficult to explain to their children.

"It's just a small community and we're just so close that when something like this happens this is just devastating I was just saying we just had dinner with the principal and his wife a week ago, so it's hard, hard, very hard," said.

Parents stayed until late hours of the afternoon consoling each other.

"Our kids are going to be traumatized for sure. I don't really know how to tell them that their janitor shot and killed their principal. I have no idea how to tell them that," parent Michelle Vien said.

It is unknown what triggered the shooting, but shortly after the incident, the gunman, John Luebbers, was arrested at his home. Police believe there was some type of dispute between the suspect and the principal, 50-year-old Sam LaCara, but they are not sure at this time what that disagreement was about. Investigators are also looking into reports that the 43-year-old may have been laid off today.

"We believe that one student may have witnessed this shooting. I'll also add that we immediately had three chaplains respond to work with family, students obviously and emergency responders," Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen said.

No children were hurt and LaCara was rushed to a local hospital where he died at 11:15 a.m. from a gunshot wound to the torso.

According to police, Luebbers did not appear to have a criminal record and some parents told the Sacramento Bee they had been fighting to get rid of the janitor for a long time because he was sometimes rude to the kids.

No formal charges have been filed yet, and the principal is leaving behind a wife and three young daughters. LaCara was known for his sense of humor and had a love of sports.