An armed teenager whose threats forced the closure of 19 school districts in Colorado killed herself in a federal recreation area outside Denver with a shotgun she purchased at a store near Columbine High School, authorities said Wednesday.
Police found the body of Sol Pais, an 18-year-old from Florida, at the base of Mount Evans, Dean Phillips, the agent in charge of the FBI office in Denver, said at a news conference.
“She appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” he said. “At this point it looks like she was alone and took her own life with the weapon she procured.”
Pais was “infatuated” with the Columbine shooting and made threats as she traveled to Colorado this week — the same week as the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, which left 13 people dead, authorities said.
Authorities said Pais arrived Monday in Colorado and immediately bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition.
She purchased the shotgun legally at the Colorado Gun Broker, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page. The gun shop is less than two miles from Columbine High School.
The gun shop says Pais passed two background clearances by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The post goes on to say the store had no reason to suspect she was a threat to herself or anyone else.
Phillips said there was no threat to a particular school. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said investigators don’t think Pais got onto the grounds of Columbine High School in Littleton.
Pais had made “credible,” but not specific, threats before and after traveling from Miami to Denver on Monday night, Phillips said.
She also raised suspicions by purchasing one-way plane tickets for April 15, 16 and 17, the agent said. Police in Florida contacted the Miami FBI office, which alerted the Denver office, Phillips said.
Phillips said he didn’t know why Pais went to Mount Evans. The driver of a rideshare or some other vehicle dropped her off there, he said, and later helped police pinpoint the location. Mount Evans, which is part of a national recreation area, is about 60 miles west of Denver.
Pais was considered a threat to the community and schools, but there was no information on any specific threat to a particular place, Phillips said.
Relief and grief in Florida
More than 2,000 miles away, in the Miami suburb of Surfside, police Chief Julio Yero broke the news of Pais’ death to her relatives.
Despite their grief, “they are actually grateful that no one else is hurt,” Yero told reporters outside the family’s home.
“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset,” the police chief said. “They provided us valuable information that led us to Colorado, and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life.”
Yero asked the public to give the Pais family privacy as they mourn.
At least 19 school districts closed
Jefferson County Public Schools, which includes Columbine High School in Littleton, were among at least 19 school districts closed Wednesday as authorities searched for Pais.
With the search over, Jefferson County schools will reopen Thursday, Superintendent Jason Glass said.
But he said there will be “heightened safety and security procedures” ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the Columbine massacre.
The teen was ‘really smart,’ baffled classmate says
Pais was a student at Miami Beach Senior High School, said Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Prior to news of Pais’ death, a man who said he was Pais’ father told the Miami Herald he lost contact with his daughter on Sunday.
“I think maybe she’s got a mental problem,” he told the Herald.
During the search for Pais, the teen’s classmates said they were stunned that she was wanted for threats.
“I actually have my third-period math and my second period with her,” 17-year-old Drew Burnstine said. “It’s just kinda crazy — she’s so close to me, sitting next to me, and she’s making these threats across the country.”
Drew said he was surprised because Pais was “really smart” and had some of the best grades in the class.
But the teen was very quiet and kept to herself, Drew said.
“She hadn’t really said anything to me other than thanking me for holding a door open for her,” he said. “That’s it.”
‘This opens a wound’
On April 20, 1999, two students killed 12 of their schoolmates and a teacher in a mass shooting at the high school in the town of Littleton, about 10 miles from Denver.
Sheriff Shrader said this week’s potential threat of violence adds more pain to a community still grieving.
“I know that this opens a wound, especially on an anniversary week, for those families who were most deeply impacted by this,” he said.
By Holly Yan, Ralph Ellis and Madeline Holcombe, CNN