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School Climate & Safety

Woman Inspired by Columbine Shooting Makes ‘Credible Threat’ as Anniversary Nears of 1999 Attack

By Evie Blad — April 16, 2019 2 min read

Updated.

More than 20 Denver-area schools, including Columbine High School in nearby Littleton, Colo., stepped up safety efforts Tuesday as the FBI warned of an “armed and extremely dangerous” woman who was inspired by the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

The FBI’s Denver Field Office said Tuesday night it was conducting a “massive manhunt” for an 18-year-old woman named Sol Pais who had traveled to the area the night before and made general threats toward unspecified schools in the area. The FBI’s Miami office tipped off authorities that the woman was “infatuated with Columbine,” they said in a press conference. After landing in Denver, the woman had purchased a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, officials said.

Officials speaking to the media Tuesday night did not detail the woman’s threats, saying they were acting on comments she made to others. A notice sent by the FBI’s Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force Tuesday afternoon said there was no cause for the woman’s arrest, but that officers should detain her and evaluate her mental health.

Several Denver-area school districts said Tuesday night that they would make decisions about possible cancellations early Wednesday morning.

Earlier Tuesday, schools in the area began soft lockdowns, or “lockouts,” in which educators lock exterior doors to buildings, blocking out outsiders while classes continue inside. Denver-area districts and the state’s department of education first warned the FBI was investigating an unspecified credible threat, but they said the threat had not been targeted at a specific school. Columbine High School cancelled after-school activities as a safety precaution Tuesday night.

Some districts said the stepped up police presence outside of schools as law enforcement searched for the woman.

The Columbine High School shooting, which happened 20 years ago this week, has inspired many school shooters and mass attackers in the time since, prompting campaigns to identify mass attackers less frequently in publications and on social media.

The Jefferson County district, home to Columbine, has a sophisticated security plan. And schools around Colorado cooperate with an anonymous reporting system run by the state’s attorney general’s office.

Columbine High School regularly attracts attention from people interested in the 1999 attack, the Washington Post reports, and it has stepped up security as the Saturday anniversary approaches.

As the district prepares for the day's memorial events, it is fending off an onslaught of curious strangers who trespass in the parking lot of the high school—sometimes more than 30 people in a single day. The district has also seen an increase in threats and concerning messages, which often come in the form of emails to the school or phone calls to the 24-hour dispatch center run by the district's security team."

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.