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School caretaker held over head teacher murder

A school caretaker was in custody today, accused of shooting dead the highly-regarded head of a Northern California primary school.

Principal Sam LaCara, 50, died in the late-morning shooting in an office at Louisiana Schnell Elementary School in Placerville, yesterday, police chief George Nielson said. No children were hurt, but one pupil may have witnessed the incident, he said.

Caretaker John Luebbers, 44, was arrested at his home about an hour after police launched a manhunt for the gunman.

Police are trying to determine a motive for the shooting and Chief Nielson said they were investigating the possibility that Luebbers, who did not have a criminal record, had lost his job.

Mr LaCara, who died at Marshall Medical Centre, was described by Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, as a dedicated leader.

Lt Chuck King of California Highway Patrol said Mr LaCara's wife was driving to the hospital after hearing about the shooting, when she was stopped by police for speeding. Officers gave her an escort to the hospital.

Police praised school staff for quickly locking down the building and protecting the children. Pupils were taken to the county fairground, where they were reunited with their parents.

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