By Kathleen Foody and Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
Update: 11:30 a.m.: The FBI’s Denver office confirmed that Sol Pais is dead after a massive manhunt and more than 1,000 school closures around the state of Colorado.
A young Florida woman who traveled to Colorado and bought a shotgun for what authorities feared would be a Columbine-inspired attack just days ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The manhunt had led to the closing of Denver-area schools as a precaution.
During the manhunt, the FBI said Pais was “infatuated” with Columbine and made threats ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the attack that killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999. The FBI described her “extremely dangerous.”
The Miami Beach high school student flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, authorities said.
Agents had focused the search around the base of Mount Evans, about 60 miles southwest of Denver.
All schools in the Denver area had been urged to tighten security because the threat was deemed “credible and general,” said Patricia Billinger, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon before Wednesday’s complete closures were announced.
Denver Public Schools said all facilities and programs were closed Wednesday, and there will be no afternoon activities or athletic competitions. The district said the decision to close campuses was in collaboration with other Denver metro-area school districts due to the ongoing safety concern.
On Tuesday, some schools released their students after additional security was called in and canceled evening activities or moved them inside.
“We always have heightened awareness close to high-profile anniversaries like this,” Billinger said.
“This has become a massive manhunt … and every law enforcement agency is participating and helping in this effort,” Dean Phillips, special agent in charge of the FBI in Denver, said late Tuesday night.
The FBI’s Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force issued a notice Tuesday describing Pais as “infatuated with (the) Columbine school shooting.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Taplin said the threats she made were general and not specific to any school.
“Because of her comment and her actions, because of her travel to the state, because of her procurement of a weapon immediately upon arriving here, we consider her to be a credible threat,” Phillips said. “We do consider her to be a credible threat to the community.”
The Denver Post reported that a call to a phone number listed for Pais’ parents in Surfside, Florida, was interrupted by a man who identified himself as an FBI agent and said he was interviewing them.
Surfside Police Sgt. Marian Cruz confirmed that her parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing on Monday. The Miami Herald and WTVJ are reporting that neighbors say the teen is a senior at Miami Beach High School.
The Associated Press left messages at two numbers listed for Pais’ relatives in Florida, while another number was disconnected.
Two teenage gunmen attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates, a teacher and then themselves.
“We know that there is a lot of anxiety right now in Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a written statement Wednesday. “We want to reassure you that federal, state, and local law enforcement are working together and dedicating all of their resources to locate this dangerous individual. The most important thing that we can do to assist law enforcement is to continue to share the photograph of the suspect and report any information. Coloradans have a history of coming together in times of need and now is no different. Our biggest priority is keeping our children safe. We thank you for your patience while we deal with this threat.”
Associated Press writer Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report. Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.
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