FBI hunts for armed woman ‘infatuated’ with Columbine
LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — Denver-area public schools closed Wednesday as the FBI hunted for an armed young Florida woman who was allegedly “infatuated” with Columbine and threatened violence just days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attack.
Sol Pais, an 18-year-old Miami Beach high school student, flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, authorities said.
All classes and extracurricular activities for about a half-million students were canceled as a precaution. Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Taplin said the young woman’s threats were general and not specific to any school.
“This has become a massive manhunt … and every law enforcement agency is participating and helping in this effort,” said Dean Phillips, agent in charge of the FBI in Denver.
The FBI said Pais made threats against the Denver metropolitan area ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School that killed 13 people, and is “considered to be extremely dangerous.” The FBI described her as “infatuated” with the Columbine attack.
Pais’ parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing to Florida authorities on Monday night, police in Surfside, Florida, said.
Authorities said Pais was last seen not far from Columbine — in the Jefferson County foothills outside Denver — in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots. They appealed for anyone seeing her to call an FBI tip line at (303) 630-6227.
The alert also said police who come into contact with her should detain her and evaluate her mental health.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said federal, state and local law enforcement were “dedicating all of their resources to locate this dangerous individual.”
“We know that there is a lot of anxiety right now in Colorado,” Polis said in a statement.
Because of the threat, Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.
“We always have heightened awareness close to high-profile anniversaries like this,” said Patricia Billinger, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety.
Messages left by The Associated Press at two numbers listed for Pais’ relatives in Florida were not immediately returned, while another number was disconnected.
Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for.
Another classmate, 17-year-old junior Drew Burnstine, said Pais was a quiet, smart student who sat alone in class and “never caused problems or indicated that she wanted to harm anyone.”
Two teenage gunmen attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives.
Many of the survivors of the shooting have school-age children of their own who were affected by the school closings.
State Rep. Patrick Neville, the Republican House minority leader, was a 15-year-old sophomore at Columbine High at the time of the shooting and now has three school-age daughters.
“It wasn’t easy for me to explain to my kids what was going on last night,” Neville said on the House floor Wednesday.
Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.