Sol Pais, the 18-year-old Florida woman who FBI officials said was “infatuated with Columbine” and whose presence in Colorado triggered hundreds of schools to close, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound off of a trail at the base of Mount Evans, Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers said.
Albers, who saw pictures of Pais’s body, said Pais was wearing camouflage pants and a black shirt, which authorities had released as part of her description on Tuesday. She was dead when law enforcement officials found her, he said.
Pais was alone and a pump-action shotgun was found nearby, Albers said. Her body was removed from the Resthouse Trail near Echo Lake Lodge around 1:30 p.m.
At a Wednesday afternoon news conferencing confirming Pais’s death, FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Dean Phillips said that Pais had arrived in Colorado Monday after buying three one-way airplane tickets for consecutive travel days.
Immediately after arriving in Denver Tuesday morning, Pais went to a gun store that she had previously called and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, Phillips said.
“We know she was in contact with gun stores before she left,” he said.
Once in Denver, Pais used ride-share services as transportation. A driver had helped law enforcement pinpoint Pais’s location near Mount Evans.
The Denver FBI office learned about Pais’s arrival in Colorado from the agency’s Miami office, Phillips said. Her parents had called local police after she disappeared Monday and the local police contacted the FBI, he said.
In Miami, school officials pledged to cooperate with law enforcement while classmates said they were surprised by her actions. After Pais’s death was announced, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools System said it had deployed mental health teams to the school.
“We are disturbed about the events that have transpired and saddened by the heartbreaking outcome,” the school system said in a statement.
Pais had made verbal comments to family and friends about Columbine and had posted her thoughts about the massacre in online forums and social media, he said.
Still, no specific school or person was threatened.
Schools across the state were closed as a precaution because the threats didn’t identify a specific school, Phillips said.
“We had no specific information about a school that was targeted. The information was generalized,” he said.
Josh Rayburn, the owner of Colorado Gun Broker, which is near Columbine High School, confirmed in a Facebook post that Pais had purchased the gun at his shop.
Officials are not sure exactly when Pais arrived at Mount Evans, including whether she spent the night on the mountain. During a morning news conference, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Schrader said officials believe she was using ride-share services for travel.
The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office began following a lead from the FBI and citizens around 9 a.m., Albers said. They searched Echo Lake Lodge but it was empty. The sheriff’s office’s tactical team along with a partial FBI tactical unit then began searching nearby trails, and Pais was found at 10:50 a.m. about a half mile from the lodge, he said.
“She is definitely dead. It was a self-inflicted wound,” said the source, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to give out information.
Pais shot herself in the face, making it difficult to confirm her identity, the anonymous source said. They did discover an identification card near the body, the source said. Officials are in the process of confirming that the gun she used on herself is the same one she bought Tuesday in Colorado.
The FBI and other law enforcement will continue searching Mount Evans for evidence, and the trail where Pais was found will remain closed, Albers said. Her body had not been moved as of 12:30 p.m.
“We are grateful for the support the community provided to help locate
Sol Pais,” Farivar said.
Pais had traveled to Colorado on Monday night, made threats and was considered armed and “extremely dangerous,” the FBI said. Officials said she purchased a pump-action shotgun and ammunition shortly after leaving Denver International Airport.
Rayburn, the gun shop owner, said his shop ran Pais through the required background checks and she was cleared by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the National Instant Criminal Criminal Background Check System.
“We had no reason to suspect she was a threat to either herself or anyone else,” the Facebook post said. “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.”
Authorities believe she was acting alone and did not have any friends in the area, Schrader said during the Wednesday morning news conference.
On Tuesday, authorities confirmed it was her presence that triggered lockouts — that’s when outer doors are bolted, but classes continue as normal — first at Columbine High School and more than 20 other Jefferson County institutions, then at dozens of other schools across the wider metro area.
The threats came just days before the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, during which two students shot and killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher.
Most major Denver-area school districts — and others across the Front Range — had canceled classes Wednesday, including Denver Public Schools, Douglas County School District, Aurora Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools. Superintendents from school districts across the Denver-metro area gathered for a call Tuesday night and collectively determined that the safest course of action would be to close schools on Wednesday.
Even school districts as far away from Columbine as those in Weld and Larimer counties were closed Wednesday as a precaution.
Farivar said the state, local and federal agents used every technological toos available to find Pais. Authorities repeatedly warned that she was still armed and dangerous.
Denver police were conducting sweeps of schools looking for Pais.
“As a precaution, Denver police officers have been directed to remain attentive around schools,” Marika Putnam, spokeswoman for the Denver Police Department, said Wednesday morning.
Putnam said that Denver authorities were in constant contact with federal, state and local law enforcement officials and she has not received any reports of contact with the suspect.
“Last night, Sol Pais traveled to Colorado and made threats in the Denver metropolitan area,” Jefferson County sheriff’s officials wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “She is armed and considered to be extremely dangerous.”
Prior to Wednesday, Pais last had been seen in the Jefferson County foothills on Monday night wearing a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reported in an alert. She was described as being 5-feet-5 with brown hair.
“We’re looking for her everywhere,” Mike Taplin, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday morning. “We’re hoping to find her before any bad can be done. All the jurisdictions are working together and the FBI is the lead agency.”
This story is developing and will be updated.