Janitor shoots California school principal to death

SACRAMENTO, California Wed Feb 2, 2011 10:15pm EST

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - A janitor at an elementary school near Sacramento, California, was arrested on Wednesday after he shot and killed the school's principal, a county fire department official said.

The shooting occurred at about 10:30 a.m. local time in an office at the Schnell School in the Sierra foothills town of Placerville, about 20 miles northeast of the state capital.

The gunman fled the scene on foot to his home, where he was taken into custody by law enforcement authorities, according to El Dorado County Fire Department Battalion Chief Larry Marinas.

Placerville police said they were holding the suspect, John Luebbers, 44, on a felony charge of murder.

The victim, identified as the school's principal, Sam LaCara, was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died from a single gunshot wound to the chest, Marinas said.

No one else was hurt or threatened with violence in the incident, Marinas said, but the shooting prompted a security lockdown at the school that lasted for at least two hours.

The circumstances and motive for the shooting remained unclear, he added.

Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen said the suspect may have confronted the principal over a perceived grievance, the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported online.

"It's not really clear whether there was a dispute. It appears there had been a discussion" before the shooting, Nielsen was quoted as saying.

An online notice posted on the Placerville Union School District website said only that at shooting had occurred at the Schnell School campus and that all students were safe and under a classroom lockdown.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Bohan)

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