PLACERVILLE (CBS13/AP) – Placerville police say a school custodian has confessed to shooting and killing an elementary school principal after claiming he was fired.
John Luebbers was arrested shortly after Louisiana Schnell School Principal Sam LaCara was shot on campus Wednesday morning.
Today, Placerville police say Luebbers confessed to killing LaCara. Luebbers told detectives he was fired by Luebbers Wednesday morning. And that he went home, got a handgun and went back to the school, walked into LaCara’s office and fired twice, hitting LaCara.
However, the school district says Luebbers was not fired. The district says he was told by LaCara to go home for the day after some sort of dispute, according to Placerville Police Capt. Mike Scott.
“He was upset about a disagreement,” Lynch said. “Mr. LaCara thought he needed to go home and cool off for the day.”
Vicki Barber, superintendent of the El Dorado County Office of Education, said the two men apparently had a dispute about the district’s selection of a new nighttime custodian. Luebbers was the daytime custodian and supervised that employee.
Luebbers’ mother, MaryAnn Phillips, said her son was friends with LaCara, and the two had gone golfing Sunday.
The confession comes as a memorial for the slain principal grows outside the Schnell school campus which is closed for the day along with the two other schools in the district.
Custodian Confesses To Shooting Principal
Students and residents are remembering LaCara with candles, flowers and a big banner where people are leaving their condolences.
Mourners held a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening for the 50year-old principal, an administrator described as a caring mentor and the man who held the school together.
Jennifer Whiteley said LaCara’s character shined through Wednesday morning, just before his death, when she called to talk about her son who was involved in a fight on the playground.
“He always was ready to jump in and help,” Jennifer said. “An hour later he was shot.”
Memorial For Slain Placerville Principal Grows
Parents are also struggling with how to help their young children understand and deal emotionally with what happened.
“She asked me yesterday why Mr. John shot her principal and I didn’t know what to tell her…it made me cry,” said Bonnie Lukesh whose daughter AJ is in kindergarten at Schnell Elementary School. “I just told her sometimes people do things and we don’t know why anybody would do that.”
Grief counselors will be on hand to help students and parents cope when classes resume at all three Placerville Union schools on Friday. The district is also publishing some information on their website to help children recovering from loss.
The school district held a news conference Thursday afternoon to update parents on the what school officials are doing to welcome students back and to explain some of the confusion immediately following the shooting.
“Mixed messages about where students would be released were confusing to parents and was made more difficult by the phone systems being jammed by all the incoming calls. The most up to date information was delayed because of this,” said Placerville Union Superintendent Jane Lynch.
Lynch also talked about how LaCara will be missed by staff, students and parents.
“Sam LaCara is a man who was larger than life. He would greet his kids everyday and parents as they would come on campus,” said Lynch.
LaCara trained teachers at Schnell School for what they were required to do during the lockdown.
“[Thanks to Sam] the process worked exactly the way it was supposed to work yesterday,” she said. “They knew they were to stay in there until they were notified.”
The district also announced that retired Superintendent Ralph Friend will serve as interim principal at Schnell School.