By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – A Florida teenager who authorities said was armed, dangerous and “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre was found dead in Colorado after she travelled to the state days before the 20th anniversary of the school attack, officials said on Wednesday.
After a daylong search, Sol Pais, an 18-year-old student from Surfside, Florida, was found about 40 miles (64 km) west of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two teenaged male students shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher on April 20, 1999, before committing suicide.
Pais appeared to have been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said during a news conference with school officials.
Denver area schools were closed on Wednesday as FBI agents, Jefferson County deputies and Colorado state troopers searched for Pais.
Since the massacre at Columbine, there has been a decades-long string of U.S. school shootings, some inspired by copycats who have expressed fascination with the massacre.
Columbine was the second deadliest shooting at a school in U.S. history at the time. Now it stands fifth, surpassed by the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 and a 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.
With the rash of school shootings across the nation, security alerts and safety drills have become commonplace. In Denver public schools alone, there have been 22 lockdowns and 294 lockouts over the past two academic years, according to school data cited by the Denver Post.
NAKEDWOMANWITH A GUN
Pais flew from Miami to Denver on Monday, where she bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, FBI Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips said at a news conference on Tuesday. Denver is adjacent to Jefferson County.
Some 20 to 30 officers were searching for her near the Echo Lake Campground in the Arapaho National Forest on Wednesday morning, after authorities received reports of a naked woman with a gun running through the woods, CBS4 in Denver reported.
No shots were fired by authorities as they closed in on Pais, the station reported, citing law enforcement sources.
A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools said Pais was student at Miami Beach Senior High School and that there was no threat to schools within the district.
On Tuesday, an FBI bulletin said authorities lacked probable cause for a formal arrest but that law enforcement should detain Pais for a mental-health evaluation.
The sheriff’s Twitter post, which included two photos of Pais, said she was dressed in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots.
An online journal written by a woman who identified herself as “Sol Pais” contains numerous handwritten entries of despair and anger, peppered with images of weapons.
“Being alive is overrated,” one entry reads, punctuated with an expletive, above a drawing of a handgun going off with the word “ready?” underneath. “I don’t feel at home in this reality,” another page says.
A user on the National Gun Forum used the same screen name as the author of the blog in a series of posts starting in late March seeking advice on how an 18-year-old Florida resident could buy a shotgun in Colorado
“I am planning a trip to Colorado in the next month or so and wanna buy a shotgun while I’m there and I was wondering what restrictions apply for me?” the first post read.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, and additional writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Larry King and Bill Berkrot)