As law enforcement escalated its search for a Surfside teen suspected of making threats to Columbine High in Colorado, her classmates at Miami Beach High described her as smart and unassuming, if socially awkward at times.
The FBI says 18-year-old Sol Pais is “armed and dangerous” and believed to be somewhere in Colorado after making “credible” threats days before the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre that ushered in the modern era of mass shootings at U.S. schools.
Agents believe Pais is “infatuated with [the] Columbine school shooting” and traveled to Colorado, buying a shotgun before disappearing. Denver area schools were shut down on Wednesday as a precaution.
Back in South Florida, students at Miami Beach High said they were surprised by Pais’ bizarre run from the law.
The teen was enrolled in AP and honors classes and usually kept to herself.
“She didn’t seem any type of way,” said Jusitn Norris, 18, a senior. “She was just bad at starting conversations.”
Another student, a 17-year-old senior, said the girl was a classmate in several AP classes and was known to wear dark, baggy clothing that hung off her skinny frame.
“She was very quiet,” the girl said. “I would usually see her doing homework ... she didn’t seem weird.”
The Miami-Dade school district acknowledged that a Miami Beach High student was wanted for questioning, and stressed that there were no threats to campuses here. “The threats appear limited to schools in Colorado,” according to spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego.
Still, fliers with Pais’ photos have been posted at schools across Miami-Dade County. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, in a tweet on Wednesday, said the district is “fully cooperating with federal and local entities” on the investigation.
Investigators are still trying to piece together details on Pais’ life.
She lived in Surfside, the small oceanside community just north of Miami Beach. Her parents reported her missing on Monday night. Surfside officers turned the case over to Miami Beach police detectives, who found her “deeply disturbed” online postings and immediately notified the FBI, according to a law-enforcement source.
Agents and officers quickly realized Pais had boarded a plane to Colorado, and purchased a weapon there. Miami FBI agents on Tuesday night visited Pais’ home. A man who answered the door identified himself as her father and said he lost contact with Pais the night before.
“I think maybe she’s got a mental problem,” he said. “I think she’s gonna be OK.”
The threats came four days before the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High April 20, 1999, mass shooting, which left 12 students and one teacher dead. Two seniors at the school — Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold — opened fire and killed 13 people before killing themselves.
Security around Colorado schools has already been ramped this year up because of the constant stream of threats related to the anniversary. The Columbine killers have become a much-studied fascination for some disaffected teenagers and others who go on to become mass shooters.
Pais may have been one of them. Somebody who identified herself as “Sol Pais” ran an online blog replete with journal entries dripping with angst and drawings of guns.
“I am the face of loneliness and misery,” the blog says.
She may also be behind a series of posts on the National Gun Forum, using the same screen name as the blog. In the posts, the person asked for advice on how to buy a shotgun in Colorado. “The problem is i have no friends in FL who are into guns like me so it’s not as fun having to do all of this alone,” according to one post.
The teenager was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots while in Jefferson County in Colorado, according to the sheriff’s office there.
“This has become a massive manhunt ... and every law enforcement agency is participating and helping in this effort,” Dean Phillips, special agent in charge of the FBI in Denver, said late Tuesday night
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI tipline at 303-630-6227.