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Woman Who Made 'Credible Threats' To Denver-Area Schools Is Dead, FBI Says

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A massive manhunt in the Denver metro area is now over. Authorities had shut down hundreds of schools there because of what they called a credible threat from an 18-year-old woman named Sol Pais. The FBI says the young woman traveled to Colorado and bought a gun after making threats to schools. Today she was found dead with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader says it appears she traveled to Colorado for one reason.

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JEFF SHRADER: Everything that I've heard in briefings does not indicate that she had any assistance or friends in the area, just a fascination with the Columbine area and the horrendous crime that went on there 20 years ago.

CORNISH: We're joined now by Colorado Public Radio's Michael Elizabeth Sakas. Welcome to the program.

MICHAEL ELIZABETH SAKAS, BYLINE: Yes. Hi there.

CORNISH: So what do we know about this young woman?

SAKAS: Yeah, so she was 18 years old, a high school senior from Miami Beach. Her parents reported her missing Monday after she took off on a flight for Colorado. Authorities say once she got here, she bought a shotgun and ammunition from a gun shop in Littleton close to Columbine High School. They say she was infatuated with the mass shootings that happened at Columbine almost exactly 20 years ago. She was last seen in the Littleton area before she took off, and then a massive manhunt ended when she was found dead near the base of Mount Evans about 60 miles west of Denver.

CORNISH: But this isn't over, right? We've got these investigations going on. What further have you learned about the FBI or what's going on with other authorities?

SAKAS: Yeah, so the FBI says they're going to continue to investigate the situation to make sure she doesn't have any accomplices. Her home in Miami has already been searched. And authorities say a combination of concerning actions, including buying multiple one-way tickets to Denver and comments made to individuals, put her on their radar.

CORNISH: All right, as we mentioned in the intro, this is the 20th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School. It's just a few days away, right? Have there been other kinds of threats?

SAKAS: Yeah, so the Jeffco School District which Columbine is a part of held a press conference earlier today. And officials said in the days leading up to the shooting's anniversary, there are always challenges and issues. John McDonald is the school's director of safety. He said they are used to threats. But this one, he says, felt different. He says Columbine continues to attract people from all over the world.

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JOHN MCDONALD: We're not a place to come visit if you're not a student. If you don't have business there, we're not a tourist attraction, and we're not a place for you to come and gain inspiration.

SAKAS: There are events planned this weekend at Columbine for the anniversary. Some vigils and ceremonies will happen at the high school. And those are still scheduled to happen.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, schools were closed today - right? - because of this threat. Just how many students were out of class?

SAKAS: So around 500,000 kids were actually out of school today with around 30 school districts closed in the Denver metro area. And I visited a playground to talk to parents and caretakers who were out with their kids who otherwise were supposed to be in school. And many parents didn't want to talk about what was going on in front of their children. They didn't want their kids to know what was actually happening. And some children thought they were out for the day because their school had plumbing issues.

One woman said this Denver playground is usually a lot busier but that maybe people were scared, and they were staying away. And I heard from many people say that they were scared. One babysitter I spoke with said she's lived in Colorado all her life and that it was hard for her to believe that Columbine was already 20 years ago. And she's saddened by all the school violence and shootings since.

CORNISH: And what about tomorrow?

SAKAS: So schools are still open tomorrow. There's going to be some heightened security. And I know at Columbine, they'll have mental health staff to help students process what's happened.

CORNISH: That's Michael Elizabeth Sakas of Colorado Public Radio. Thanks for your reporting.

SAKAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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