JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colorado — Sol Pais, the Florida woman accused of making nonspecific threats against schools in the Denver metropolitan area, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday morning, the FBI confirmed.
The FBI Denver office confirmed the agency had responded to the base of Mount Evans Wednesday morning and, in a tweet just before 11 a.m., said there was no longer a threat to the community. All Denver area schools had canceled classes Wednesday.
Districts have since been announcing they are re-opening Thursday, many with additional security measures.
According to Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers, Pais' body was found at 10:50 a.m. about a half-mile from Echo Lake Park, located near the Mount Evans Scenic Byway about 45 miles west of Denver.
He also said law enforcement found her by following up on tips from the FBI and Colorado residents who called them, and that rumors Pais was found naked are patently false. She was found alone. Deputies said they don't know why she was in that area.
At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the FBI Denver field office held a press conference to update the public on the status of the investigation and to thank them for all their help in finding the woman.
"I recognize the sense of anxiety... [in] the Denver metro area over the last 36 hours," Special Agent In Charge Dean Phillips said. "I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we dealt with this potential threat to the community."
Phillips offered a deeper insight into the FBI's investigation, saying they were not pinged about Pais until Tuesday but that she arrived on Monday and immediately went to purchase a gun at a store near Littleton.
He said she purchased three one-way tickets to Denver, one each for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Early Tuesday morning — a day after her arrival in Colorado — Surfside police in Florida tipped off the Miami FBI field office over what Phillips called a knowledge about Columbine and strange comments she made. Miami got in touch with Denver and the FBI immediately began to investigate.
Phillips said she took a "for-rent" vehicle out to Mount Evans from the metro area. The driver helped the FBI pinpoint where she might be, he added.
Law enforcement said they cannot comment on her mental state and will wait for the Coroner's Office to confirm a cause of death, but believe she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Phillips said it appears she was alone where investigators found her body.
The investigation will not end with her death; Phillips said the FBI will continue to comb online and other sources going back a year to make sure she didn't have any help or accomplices.
When asked what he would say to someone outraged over "what one 18-year-old girl can do to the Front Range," Phillips replied that as a parent he would thank the schools for keeping his child safe.
Prior to her death, Phillips said his office was working with the U.S. Attorney and the local District Attorney to file charges in the case.
In a Wednesday briefing, Surfside, Florida police cited collaboration among law enforcement for preventing further tragedy.
"First I would like to express the family's grief for the situation," said Surfside Chief of Police Julio Yero. "They are actually grateful that no one else was hurt. This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided us valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life."
Yero asked that the family be given "privacy and a little time to grieve." Pais' parents had reported her missing on Monday night, police said.
Officials with the Jefferson County Public School District and the Sheriff's Office provided an update around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. The district said that school would resume normally on Thursday with an increased security presence.
"We are relieved that the threat to our schools and community is no longer present, " said Jason Glass, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools. "I want to express deep gratitude to our partners in law enforcement, especially the JeffCo sheriff's office for your vigilance in serving as guardians for the community's children."
John McDonald, JeffCo Schools's executive director of safety, said this one "felt different" to officials.
"When this threat came in, we are used to threats frankly at Columbine," McDonald said. "To close an entire metro area is not an easy decision, but at the end of the day, it's the right decision and it's the best decision to protect all of our kids."
The cancellations started with Cherry Creek Schools and Douglas County Schools just before midnight Tuesday. Several other districts posted their notices including Denver, Aurora, Jefferson County, Douglas County, Englewood, Adams 12, Mapleton, Boulder Valley, and St. Vrain late Tuesday into early Wednesday.
Hundreds of schools were closed, which impacted more than 500,000 students across the Front Range.
This weekend will mark 20 years since the deadly shooting at Columbine High School, and the district said its shadow looms over the community.
"We know that Columbine continues to attract attention from around the world," McDonald said. "If I have any message we are 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 get inspiration."
Phillips said on Tuesday that law enforcement did not have information about specific threats made against any particular school, but that Pais' actions, comments and travel to Colorado made law enforcement consider her a credible threat to the community.
“She departed the airport and went to a store, where she did procure a weapon,” Phillips said Tuesday night. “She obtained a pump-action shotgun and ammunition. She was then taken to an area where she was last seen out towards the foothills and we’ve been trying to find her ever since."
Phillips reiterated that Wednesday after officials found her body, adding that investigators intended to search up near the mountain but needed to wait until visible light.
Colorado Gun Broker released a statement that said Pias purchased a shotgun legally from their Jefferson County store. In the statement, the store said she went through a full background check and was given clearance through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS) and Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI.)
"We had no reason to suspect she was a threat to either herself or anyone else," said Josh Rayburn with Colorado Gun Broker. "We are very sorry to hear of the outcome of this situation. We are praying for her family and are very thankful this situation did not escalate into a public tragedy."
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