PLACERVILLE (CBS 5 / AP) ― A custodian was arrested Wednesday after the principal at a Northern California elementary school was shot in his office and fatally wounded, authorities said.

John Leubbers was suspected in the 11 a.m. shooting of principal Sam LaCara at Louisiana Schnell School in Placerville, about 50 miles east of Sacramento, according to police.

Placerville police Chief George Nielson said the 50-year-old LaCara died a short time later at Marshall Medical Center from a gunshot wound to his torso.

The 44-year-old Leubbers was arrested at his home on Skycrest Drive in the town of El Dorado about an hour after authorities launched a manhunt. Witnesses saw officers go into the home with weapons drawn and take the suspect into custody.

About 50 officers from various law enforcement agencies participated in the manhunt for Leubbers, who fled on foot after the shooting.

No children were injured in the incident, and the school was locked down by authorities after the shooting in the principal’s office, which Nielson said might have been witnessed by a student.

The motive for the shooting was not clear, but police said Luebbers might have been laid off.

“There may have been some kind of dispute between the principal and the custodian,” Nielson said. “That’s part of our investigation.”

Police did not believe the janitor had any criminal history.

LaCara was rushed to the hospital after the shooting in what El Dorado County Fire Battalion Chief Larry Marinas described at the time as “very serious condition.”

Nikki Medoro Reporting For KCBS:

The police chief said LaCara’s family was devastated by his death; he was married and has three daughters.

“They are requesting privacy at this time,” Nielson said.

Chaplain Jim Thompson met with the family at the hospital after being sent by law enforcement officers.

“They’re very, very angry at the perpetrator, who they happen to know, (he) knew the principal very well,” Thompson said.

California Highway Patrol Lt. Chuck King said LaCara’s wife was driving on Highway 50 to the hospital after hearing about the shooting when she was pulled over by a CHP officer for speeding. Instead of being ticketed, she was escorted to the hospital.

LaCara was hailed as a dedicated leader in education by Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators.

“Sam has been a role model to school leaders for his dedication to students and to public schools,” Wells said. LaCara had served as a treasurer of the group.

The state’s superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson, commended police and the school staff for quickly protecting the children in the wake of the shooting. Students were taken to the county fairgrounds, then were released to their parents.

“The children were safe in this incident. The principal was the target in this, unfortunately,” Nielson said.

“Our schools should be safe havens from guns and violence, and I’m deeply saddened when harm comes to anyone working to educate California’s children,” added Torlakson.

Classes were canceled at all district schools for Thursday. A candlelight vigil for LaCara was held Wednesday evening outside a Placerville church.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (17)
  1. Tours Martel says:

    Thank goodness that schools are gun-free zones, or something bad might have happened. Words without deeds are worse than useless. They are lethal because they delude the weakminded into believing that the State will protect them from harm. Unfortunately, the State will only avenge your tragedy, not prevent it.

    1. Rob says:

      The only morons here are you and those on the left who will AGAIN use a tradgedy like this to promote your own anti gun agenda. You are a disgrace to your country.

      1. gpt says:

        What gives you the right to say someone is a “disgrace to your country” simply because he/she disagrees with you? Certainly hope that you don’t have children and, if you do, that they aren’t subject to your boorishness. Or placed in harms way because of our gun “culture.”


      2. Rob says:

        @gpt. .. Firearm ownership, like freedom of religion and like freedom of speech are protected by the US Constitution. Why is it ok to be against firearms ownership when its not ok to b against freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc? Btw… the Constitution gives me the right to say whatever I want to. Also, I didn’t stoop so low as to bring children into this discussion as u did. What an ass.

      3. J W T says:

        Rob: There’s no letter “d” in the word tragedy. Learn how to spell first before you start ranting off right wing propaganda.

        How are things going at the Tea Party these days ?? Hmmm ? Has Mama Sarah swept in and saved your warped view of the world yet ??

      4. Rob says:

        well arent we quite the little socialist prick!! Why don’t u go back home and nurse off your mothers tit for a while. Sounds to me like u weren’t held enough as a child.

      5. Rob says:

        @ jwt

        Sarah Palin isn’t my mama. Do u even have a mama jwt? Because if u did she certainly didn’t teach you any manners.

      6. Boohoo Freaky WHO says:

        Oh stop being keyboard warriors. Anyone can fight with a keyboard

  2. Jane says:

    @Rob “…. you and those on the left…”


    looks like you’re jumping to confusion…..

  3. Zack Debarco says:

    As a lifelong gun owner and former republican I see this sort of tragedy as not being about gun ownership but about our society’s slide into anarchy. While some on the far left and the far right are so entrenched in their views, no progress is being made to make our society safer. The idea that an assault rifle has a legit place in a civilized society is ludicrous. Hunting rifles, shotguns and handguns are acceptable to me, even though I personally don’t hunt. In this state, fully automatic rifles aren’t legal. What is the difference when one can pratically shoot an assault rifle just as fast? I don’t want ANYBODY owning either because of the higher risk of mass casulties if abused. IT’S ABOUT PUBLIC SAFETY for all. When was the last time a homeowner used an assault rifle for self defense?, It’s impractical to keep around the house safely.

    1. DaPoPoMan says:

      Hi Zack, what you fail to realize is that the prohibition of firearm ownership becomes a slippery slope when it becomes “okay” to ban certain ones. We have seen this time after time. The California “assault weapon” ban, then it became “Saturday Night Specials”, and so on. I know several people who have used these evil assault rifles for defense in their homes. Also, contrary to popular opinions the bullets do not pass through wall after wall. They will go through one, but then so will just about any other cartridge out there. As a professional law enforcement officer, I have no fear of law abiding citizens who own guns, even were they allowed to lawfully carry them as so many other states allow. Give someone who knows what they are doing a revolver and you can still have a “mass casualty” incident. We are truly fortunate that people who really know what they are doing have ever gone off, probably because they are grounded in reality and understand what they would be losing. The criminal in this case is part of the endless problem perpetuated by our mass media through movies which espouse revenge and retribution as the means to an end. The only thing this criminal is certain of is a place to live, which will be at the expense of the tax payers. And for the fools who want to get down on me, yes I am an NRA life member, yes I am a republican (who hates the religious nuts among the party) and I voted for Obama for one reason (Sarah Palin could not be allowed to become President, otherwise I would have voted for McCain). Also I am pro-abortion, we have way too many losers and cretins running around as is.

  4. Rob says:

    No one has yet to explain this. Why is it ok to hate, condem and regulate the 2nd Ammendment when it isn’t ok to even think about touching the other ones? Oh and @ JWT, I DON’T belong to the tea party. And I didn’t spew right wing rhetoric. I just said things in defense of our Constitution. How is that right wing rhetoric?

  5. winter says:

    What a bunch of ignorant, nasty, 2nd-amendment rednecks!

    A family lost a husband, brother, father, and companion. The community lost an advocate, a brilliant professional and a dear friend.

    And some here have turned this story into your personal platform for hate speech and ravings.

    Shame on you!

    1. DaPoPoMan says:

      I would ask did you know the victim? He may have been a bad person. Perhaps he treated this janitor with disdain and humiliated or bullied him. Just because the person has children does not even make them a fit parent. There are many possibilities here. If the janitor never had a criminal record, people usually do not start off their criminal careers with murder. Maybe he just had not been caught. Whatever the answers the janitor is now a criminal and a person is dead. This is a horrible situation and it is one that needs to be brought to an end. If anything people need to grow thicker skins and get past blaming everyone but themselves for their problems.

    2. Rob says:

      And you are a nasty left wing socialist freedom hating moonbat!

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