Locals react to Placerville shooting

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News that a school principal was shot and killed in Placerville by a janitor Wednesday morning spread quickly throughout the Auburn area. Louisiana Schnell School Principal Sam LaCara was pronounced dead at Placerville’s Marshall Hospital at 11:16 a.m. The school’s custodian, John Luebbers, 44, was arrested at his Placerville residence a little after noon in connection with the slaying. Local police and school officials were quick to react. Peter Efstathiu, principal, Placer High School: (Auburn Police) Chief Valerie Harris called and let us know. Placerville sounds very much like Placer and she wanted us to be prepared to deal with phone calls and questions in case we got calls. (Our response) falls in line with the Breaking Down the Walls Assembly we had today. Respect each other. That was the message. I feel extremely safe at Placer and have good relationships with the custodians. I personally take all complaints from parents or kids seriously. I investigate them. When we get complaints, we follow up. My heart just goes out to the school community there. It’s heart-breaking and heart-wrenching. In my mind I can never see a reason to shoot someone else, except in self-defense. It’s scary and it really makes you think. Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, superintendent, Placer County Office of Education: E-mails, phone calls and offers of help have been going back and forth between school professionals. Some people knew Sam, I didn’t. Our hearts go out to the school family there. I don’t know the specifics of this case but can speak in general terms. When you employ individuals, and the employer suspects a mental health issue, you have to closely monitor that. You have to have the difficult conversations and have multiple people meet with that individual in a public arena. Sometimes you have to ask law enforcement to be at board meetings. We don’t meet with individuals alone. When you are front-office staff you have to be prepared and alert. If you have suspicions, you have to act quickly and accordingly, hitting a panic button or calling 911. I have offered help and support to the El Dorado County Office of Education but have not yet heard back. Michele Schuetz, superintendent, Auburn Union School District: Anyone in the school community thinks it’s horrific. We’re all concerned about the trauma to staff and students and our hearts go out to them. All of our schools have a crisis plan in place. A couple of our schools have emergency phones that call directly into the police department. We have an automatic phone call system to notify parents and have lockdown procedures in place. Andy Withers, principal, Penryn Elementary School: It’s a sad day for that family and the entire school community. I feel very safe in my school, as safe as you could feel. As in any school, we have lockdown (procedures) and safety drills are in place and I hope we never have to enact on them in that way. Anne Stone, principal, Colfax Elementary School: I absolutely think it was a very isolated incident. The evidence of that is that it hasn’t happened in California that I’m aware of ever. We have a school safety plan that is reviewed annually to account for many types of emergencies. All of our employees are screened and fingerprinted and I’m very comfortable with our staff. Part of it is the relationship we all have with each other. We’re a close community.