Thursday Feb 03 2011
Janitor who shot principal says he was fired
By: Penne Usher Gold Country News Service
School district said that’s not true
PLACERVILLE — A Louisiana Schnell Elementary School custodian reportedly confessed Thursday to killing school Principal Sam LaCara. Placerville Police Capt. Mike Scott said John Luebbers, 44, told officials he was fired Wednesday morning. He reportedly left the campus and went to his El Dorado home where he retrieved a gun. Luebbers told investigators that he drove back to the campus, walked into the school office and into the principal’s office. He said he fired two rounds, striking the principal, according to a press release issued Thursday by Scott. When contacted by phone, Scott declined to provide additional details about the type of firearm used in the killing. “It was a handgun but we aren’t going any further than that,” he said. LaCara, an educator for 21 years in the Placerville Union School District, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. School district officials told members of the media at a Thursday afternoon press conference that Luebbers was not fired. The dispute that led to the murder of LaCara most likely stemmed from miscommunication. “(It) may have been a misunderstanding,” said Superintendent Nancy Lynch. “(Luebbers) was upset about a misunderstanding regarding a personnel issue. He was sent home to cool off.” The personnel issue had nothing to do with Luebbers losing his job, Lynch said. The district had been interviewing to fill a nighttime janitorial position. LaCara and Luebbers, who had a “very friendly relationship,” reportedly got into a disagreement some time Tuesday, according to Lynch. “They had a good relationship,” Lynch said. Luebbers, a lead custodian at Schnell school, may not have agreed with the district’s decision as to who they planned to hire for the night position, Lynch said. Luebbers’ mother, MaryAnn Phillips, told the Associated Press that Leubbers and LaCara were friends who had gone golfing together Sunday. Police received a 911 call at 10:37 a.m. Wednesday from a school employee who stated that LaCara had been shot by Luebbers. The elementary school campus was placed in lockdown Wednesday while the Placerville Police Department, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol searched for Luebbers. The 400 or so students sat in darkened classrooms away from windows for hours while investigators combed the school for evidence and searched the surrounding area for the shooter. Lynch said the elementary students did not know why they were on lockdown, “They were not aware of what was going on,” she said. “This was Sam’s school and the kids and teachers knew what to do.” Lynch confirmed that one student was in the office at the time of the shooting. “It was a very young student,” she said. Lynch went on to say that she has been in contact with the family of the young witness and has offered counseling assistance to the family. Classes resume Friday morning and psychologists and counselors will be available for students, parents and teachers.