Fri, Apr 19, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Florida teen obsessed with Columbine takes own life

AP, LITTLETON, Colorado

A Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the Columbine school shooting and might have been planning an attack in Colorado just ahead of the 20th anniversary was on Wednesday found dead in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

The body of 18-year-old high-school student Sol Pais was discovered in the mountains outside Denver with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after investigators got a tip from the driver who took her there, the FBI said.

During the search, Denver-area schools closed as a precaution, with classes and extracurricular activities canceled for 500,000 students.

Police and the FBI were tipped off about Pais after the Miami Beach student made troubling remarks to others about her “infatuation” with the 1999 bloodbath at Columbine High School and this weekend’s anniversary of the 13 killings, said Dean Phillips, the FBI agent in charge in Denver. He did not elaborate on what she said.

Pais purchased three one-way tickets to Denver on three consecutive days, then flew in on Monday night and went directly to a gun store, where she bought a shotgun, authorities said.

“We’re used to threats, frankly, at Columbine,” John McDonald, security chief for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over.

“This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention,” he said.

McDonald described her trip as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis said after receiving word that the hunt was over that he and all Colorado parents were “hugging their children a little tighter.”

In Pais’ hometown, Surfside Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.”

Pais’ parents had reported her missing on Monday night, police said.

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” Yero said.

Authorities said that Pais did not threaten a specific school, but Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver reacted by locking their doors for nearly three hours on Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.

Pais’ body was found off a trail not far from the base of Mount Evans, a recreation area about 100km southwest of Denver, authorities said.

She used the weapon she bought, Phillips said, adding that she had been last seen in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said that the sale of the shotgun apparently followed the state’s legal process.

Out-of-state residents who are at least 18 can buy shotguns in Colorado. Customers must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.

School officials said events planned to mark the anniversary would go on as scheduled, including a ceremony at Columbine on Saturday.

Two teenagers attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives.

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