When she stepped into Colorado Gun Broker on Monday, Sol Pais knew what she wanted to buy: a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, the same gun one of the shooters used in the 1999 attack on Columbine High School, the Washington Post reports. The 20th anniversary of that attack was five days away and the school was less than two miles down the road. For weeks, the 18-year-old had been planning this trip, a pilgrimage from South Florida to the Denver suburb. She’d become “infatuated” with the massacre, authorities said. Now she posed a significant threat to the school, its 1,700 students and the entire community. Instead of hurting others, Pais ended up running from the FBI and killing herself with the shotgun she bought.
Pais was found dead in a remote mountain area Wednesday after a nearly 20-hour manhunt shut down the state’s largest school districts and left hundreds of thousands of students and parents wondering how close they had come to another attack. “This was the real deal,” said John McDonald, chief of security for the Jefferson County School District. “She was making significant statements to friends and social media. You add in the fact that she goes directly from the airport to the gun store . . . these are the red flags we always talk about.” He learned about Pais Tuesday, a day he was responding to a bomb threat at a middle school and receiving warnings about a potential shooting at another high school. Columbine sees a rise in menacing messages and behavior every April, when the date of the 1999 attack approaches. This year, with such a significant anniversary, the threats have been relentless. More than 150 people were apprehended in the Columbine parking lot last month, attempting to take photos of the school or get inside it.