A young Florida woman who travelled to Colorado and bought a shotgun for what authorities feared would be a Columbine-inspired attack just days ahead of its 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Agents had focused the search around the base of Mount Evans, a popular recreational area about 95 kilometres southwest of Denver.
The FBI had considered Pais “extremely dangerous” and said she had “made threats to commit an act of violence in the Denver metropolitan area” just days before the 20th anniversary of the attack in a Littleton, Colo., high school by two students, who shot and killed 13 people.
We can confirm that Sol Pais is deceased. We are grateful to everyone who submitted tips and to all our law enforcement partners for their efforts in keeping our community safe.
All schools in the Denver area were urged to tighten security because the threat was deemed “credible and general,” said Patricia Billinger, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon before Wednesday’s complete closures were announced.
“We deal with a lot of threats at Columbine,” John McDonald, executive director of security for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly got our attention.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI say Pais travelled to Colorado from Miami on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition at a Littleton-area business.
Officials said there was no evidence she ever got close to Columbine High.
Denver Public Schools said the decision to close campuses and afternoon activities was in collaboration with other Denver metro-area school districts due to the ongoing safety concern.
On Tuesday, some schools released their students after additional security was called in and cancelled evening activities or moved them inside.
“We always have heightened awareness close to high-profile anniversaries like this,” Billinger said.
With the threat over, officials said all public events related to the grim Columbine anniversary were still scheduled to take place. They said there was already a comprehensive security plan in place given the notoriety of the event.
Authorities said Pais was last seen near Columbine — in the Jefferson County foothills outside Denver — wearing a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots.
‘Infatuated’ with Columbine shooting
“This has become a massive manhunt … and every law enforcement agency is participating and helping in this effort,” Dean Phillips, special agent in charge of the FBI in Denver, said late Tuesday night.
The FBI’s Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force issued a notice Tuesday describing Pais as “infatuated with [the] Columbine school shooting.”
Sheriff’s spokesperson Mike Taplin said the threats she made were general and not specific to any school.
The Denver Post reported that a call to a phone number listed for Pais’s parents in Surfside, Fla., was interrupted by a man who identified himself as an FBI agent and said he was interviewing them.
Surfside Police Sgt. Marian Cruz confirmed that her parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing on Monday. The Miami Herald and WTVJ reported that neighbours say the teen is a senior at Miami Beach High School.
Described as quiet, smart student
The Associated Press left messages at two numbers listed for Pais’s relatives in Florida, while another number was disconnected.
Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for.
Another classmate, 17-year-old junior Drew Burnstine, said Pais was a quiet, smart student who sat alone in class and “never caused problems or indicated that she wanted to harm anyone.”
The police chief from Pais’s hometown asked the media to give her family “privacy and a little time to grieve.”
Surfside, Fla., police Chief Julio Yero said the family co-operated with the investigation and “provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life.”
Yero said he was tasked with notifying the family that their daughter was dead.
This story originally appeared on CBC