- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2019

DENVER — Add the brief but tragic odyssey of Sol Pais to the story of Columbine High School as Colorado prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the infamous school shooting.

The 18-year-old Miami teen was found dead Wednesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the foothills of the Rockies after having flown Monday to Denver and purchasing a shotgun in what authorities described as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine.

The FBI and local law enforcement discovered her body after an intensive search and classroom closures involving 19 school districts, dozens of private schools, and a half-million students stretching across the Front Range from Boulder to Denver to Castle Rock.

John McDonald, who’s in charge of security at Columbine as Jefferson County Schools executive director of school safety, defended the decision to shut down the state’s second-largest school district over the threat posed by a Florida teen with a Columbine obsession.

“We’re used to threats frankly at Columbine. This one felt different,” Mr. McDonald said at a press conference. “It was different. And it certainly had our attention.”

FBI special agent in charge Dean Phillips said Ms. Pais was viewed as a “credible threat” based on her “very unusual” behavior. For one, she purchased three one-way tickets scheduled for three consecutive days to Denver.

After arriving, she took a ride-share car to buy a pump-action shotgun and ammunition in Littleton, two miles from Columbine, before being dropped off in the Jefferson County foothills region.

Her body was found early Wednesday by law enforcement search teams on a forested trail a half-mile from the Echo Lake Lodge near the foot of Mount Evans in Clear Creek County.

“It was really a combination of her actions and comments,” Mr. Phillips said at a press briefing. “She made several comments to folks that we obtained through interviews, comments that were troubling with regard to her infatuation with Columbine. The recognition that the Columbine anniversary is coming this weekend.”

Josh Rayburn of Colorado Gun Broker confirmed that Ms. Pais legally purchased a shotgun at the retailer’s Littleton location after passing federal and state background checks.

“We had no reason to suspect she was a threat to either herself or anyone else,” Mr. Rayburn said in a Facebook post. “We are very sorry to hear of the outcome in this situation. It is never good when someone loses their life. We are praying for her family. And are very thankful this situation did not escalate into a public tragedy.”

Mr. Phillips said the teen did not make a specific threat to any particular school, and questions were raised about whether it was necessary to close public schools across the Denver metro area, despite the red flags raised by her behavior.

“We base our decision based on the best intel we have at the time,” Mr. McDonald said. “To close an entire metro area is not an easy decision, but at the end of the day, it’s the right decision and the best decision to protect our kids.”

In addition to Jefferson County, large school districts shut down Wednesday included Boulder Valley, Douglas County, Littleton, St. Vrain, Cherry Creek, Adams County and Aurora.

Mr. Phillips said authorities would continue the investigation, including reviewing Ms. Pais‘ social media history, to ensure she had no accomplices.

Her family had cooperated with the investigation through local police, providing “valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” said Surfside Police Chief Julio Yero.

“I would like to express the family’s grief for the situation. They are actually grateful that no one else was hurt,” Chief Yero told reporters at CBS6 Miami.

Mr. Phillips said the FBI in Miami identified troubling statements made by Ms. Pais, a student at Miami Beach High School who was last seen in Colorado wearing a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots.

“She did not make any specific threats to a specific school, but her comments, her actions that we have heard about from others [gave] us great concern that she could pose a threat to a school, not necessarily Columbine,” Mr. Phillips said. “She has had an infatuation with Columbine and the perpetrators of Columbine.”

Two teen shooters killed 12 students and a teacher before turning their firearms on themselves on April 20, 1999, at Columbine.

“It’s certainly not the first threat that we’ve had that involves Columbine High School or references it,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader. “And in that regard, I know that this opens a wound, especially on an anniversary week, for those families who were most deeply impacted by this.”

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