Miami Area Schools Remain On Alert Over Columbine Threat

SURFSIDE, FL — Miami-Dade schools will remain on heightened alert throughout the rest of this week after an 18-year-old student at Miami Beach Senior High School was confirmed dead in Colorado Wednesday amid a nationwide manhunt sparked by what law enforcement officials considered to be a credible threat over a possible school attack timed to coincide with the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

Sol Pais lived in the close knit seaside community of Surfside, which is about 1-square mile of mostly homes and condominiums just north of Miami Beach. Local police were stationed outside the family’s home on Wednesday as reporters descended on the neighborhood. See also Sol Pais Found Dead: Threat To Community Over, FBI Says

Police Chief Julio Yero of the Surfside Police Department told reporters that the Pais family was helpful in the investigation.

“They provided us valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” said Yero, adding that the woman’s family was grieving but grateful that no one else was hurt.

Pais was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday at a popular recreation area in the mountains west of Denver after investigators got a tip from a driver who took her there.

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said public schools in the Miami area were placed on heightened alert purely as a precaution though Denver-area schools canceled classes Wednesday due to the threat.

“There is no imminent or immediate threat to Miami-Dade schools, however, in an abundance of caution, and as a matter of prevention, we have heightened our alert systems,” Carvalho said in a video statement.

Students at Miami Beach Senior High School told reporters that Pais was often alone and dressed in black when they saw her around school.

Adam Charni, a senior at the school said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for. Another classmate, 17-year-old Drew Burnstine, described Pais as quiet and smart.

But the Miami Beach high school student made troubling remarks to others about her “infatuation” with the 1999 assault at Columbine High and this weekend’s anniversary, said Dean Phillips, FBI agent in charge in Denver. He did not elaborate on what she said.

Investigators will seek to learn more from Pais’ social media and her other online presence, largely to ensure that she had no “accessories” or “accomplices,” Phillips said. He confirmed that the material being scrutinized includes a blog containing hand-written journal entries that occasionally feature sketches of guns or people holding large firearms.

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Miami-Dade school officials stressed there have not been any threats to schools in Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami and Miami Beach.

“The threats appear limited to schools in Colorado,” the district’s Jackie Calzadilla told Patch. District officials said they also deployed a crisis team to Miami Beach Senior High to assist students and employees in processing the events of this week.

She also said that district officials were assisting the FBI in its investigation.

The Miami Beach high school student flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition from a gun shop in Littleton, not far from Columbine, authorities said.

“We’re used to threats, frankly, at Columbine,” John McDonald, executive director of security for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention.”

Authorities gave no immediate details on where Pais was found, but FBI agents had focused the search around the base of Mount Evans, a popular recreation area about 60 miles southwest of Denver.

The FBI in Miami said they were not commenting on the case locally.

Ernesto Rodriguez of the nearby Miami Beach Police Department said that he could not confirm whether his agency was involved in the investigation or had contacts with Pais in the past.

Colorado’s McDonald described the woman’s trip as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine and cited her purchase of the shotgun as one reason officials took her as a serious threat.

“Those two things combined with her fascination of Columbine — that’s pretty clear and convincing evidence that she was a threat to the school,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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