'Massive manhunt' for Florida woman prompts extra patrols at Routt County schools | SteamboatToday.com

‘Massive manhunt’ for Florida woman prompts extra patrols at Routt County schools

Law enforcement across Routt County conducted extra patrols Wednesday after a woman made violent threats against Front Range schools.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Law enforcement across Routt County conducted extra patrols Wednesday, particularly around local schools, as authorities searched for a woman who made violent threats against Denver schools.

The FBI said 18-year-old Sol Pais was “considered to be extremely dangerous” after flying from her home in Florida to Denver, where she bought a shotgun and ammunition ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Pais was later found dead Wednesday morning in Littleton from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader.

In an F.B.I. bulletin sent to local law enforcement agencies Tuesday, officials said Pais was “infatuated” with the Columbine attack, and they voiced concerns about her mental stability. 

About half a million students stayed home from school Wednesday after more than two dozen school districts in the Denver metro area closed as a precaution. No injuries or casualties have been reported in relation to the incident, aside from Pais’ death.

Steamboat Springs School District officials took to social media Wednesday morning to alert families of the incident. Because the threats appeared to be isolated to the Denver area, classes continued as usual. 

“At this time, we have no reason to believe that students or schools in our area are in danger,” the district said in a Facebook post. 

Nevertheless, local law enforcement did not take any chances. Police officers in Steamboat, Hayden and Oak Creek expanded their presence around schools, aided by Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies, according to Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen.

Christensen himself visited Steamboat Springs High School before classes started Wednesday to ensure all the doors were secure. He also spoke with staff and families, some of whom thanked him for being so thorough.

Christensen said teachers were aware of the situation but did not want it to unduly worry their students.

“They felt like Steamboat is a safe environment, but they also were focused on making sure that their morning started off right,” he said.

Hayden Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski did not think the woman posed a serious threat to the town, but his officers still offered a heavier presence than normal around the area’s schools.

“We’re not going to have something like that happen if we can at all prevent it,” he said. 

Amid a rise in mass shootings and suicides, Colorado recently passed legislation to temporarily take guns away from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

The so-called “red flag” bill, which Gov. Polis signed into law last Friday, would allow family members and law enforcement to issue extreme risk protection orders for people in a mental health crisis. 

Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler told Colorado Public Radio Pais would likely qualify for a gun hold under that law, but it does not take effect until January 2020. 

The 1999 Columbine shooting, in which two students shot and killed 12 of their fellow classmates and a teacher, continues to influence copycat incidents, according to law enforcement officials, researchers and educators. 

In December, Columbine High School received an anonymous phone call claiming bombs had been planted inside the school. That incident turned out to be a hoax. 

Local schools have boosted security measures in an attempt to prevent similar attacks in Routt County. The high school underwent a remodel last year to construct a vestibule at the main entrance, which allows staff to keep out any potentially dangerous visitors. 

Law enforcement agencies throughout the county have also conducted special trainings to prepare for potential attacks on schools. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Colorado State Patrol troopers visit a different school in the area each summer to simulate active shooters or other violent scenarios, according to Christensen.

“It’s as realistic as we can make the training,” he said.

This summer, law enforcement will be at Soroco High School for the coordinated exercise. 

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