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Teenager 'Infatuated' With Columbine Found Dead Following 24-Hour Manhunt

Leigh Paterson
FBI agent in charge Dean Phillips speaks at a press conference April 17 in Denver.

A Florida teenager is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound following a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

Sol Pais flew into Denver International Airport Monday night. She then bought a pump-action shotgun from a gun shop in Littleton near Columbine.

Police say she made verbal threats of violence but did not single out a specific school, resulting in a precautionary lockout of over 20 Denver-area schools, including Columbine. On Wednesday nearly half a million students were out of school due to closures in the metro area and Northern Colorado as the manhunt continued.

The search ended when Pais' body was found off a trail not far from the base of Mount Evans, about 60 miles southwest of Denver. FBI officials said she was dropped off in the area by a rideshare service.

What we know about Pais

The FBI characterized Pais as obsessed with the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Executive director of security for Jefferson County Schools John McDonald described her trip as a "pilgrimage" to Columbine. Combined with her purchase of a shotgun, authorities took her to be a serious threat.

Credit Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
Undated photos of Sol Pais released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office during the manhunt.

"Those two things combined with her fascination of Columbine - that's pretty clear and convincing evidence that she was a threat to the school," said McDonald.

FBI Denver agent in charge Deal Phillips said Pais bought three one-way tickets to Colorado on three consecutive days.

"She made several comments to folks that we obtained through interviews," said Phillips. "Comments that were troubling with regard to her infatuation with Columbine."

Pais' family reported her missing on Monday night according to police in the family's hometown of Surfside, Florida.

Classmates at Miami Beach High School said she kept mostly to herself and described her as quiet and smart.

Questions about gun sales

One lingering question after Pais' death focuses on her purchase of a firearm after arriving in Colorado.

The Jefferson County sheriff's department says the sale of the shotgun followed the state's legal process. Out-of-state residents who are at least 18 can legally buy shotguns in Colorado. Gun buyers must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.

Colorado Gun Broker, which sold Pais the shotgun, said in a statement that they followed the law in the sale.

"She did go through the full background check (4473), and was given a clearance by both NICS and CBI," wrote owner Josh Rayburn on the store's Facebook page. "We had no reason to suspect she was a threat to either herself or anyone else."

Reactions and context

Pais' threats were made days before the 20th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School that left 13 dead.

"We're used to threats, frankly, at Columbine," said John McDonald with the Jefferson County school system. "This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention."

While the Pais' threats were centered on the Denver metro area, schools in Northern Colorado — including Greeley-Evans School District 6 — closed for the day.

"We're used to threats, frankly, at Columbine."

District spokesperson Theresa Myers says they made the decision after a call with the governor's office and law enforcement.

"Many of the superintendents decided it was probably prudent since they were told by the FBI that they did not feel like there would be a resolution to this threat, to go ahead and close," said Myers.

Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement following the announcement of Pais' death that he and all Colorado parents are "hugging their children a little tighter."

"Together we thank law enforcement for their swift and diligent actions over the past 24 hours to keep Coloradans safe, and we will continue to be vigilant against threats to our community," he said.

Resources are available from the National Associate of School Psychologists on how to talk to children about violence in both English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).

Schools are expected to resume normal operations Thursday, some with hightened security and safety measures.

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