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Editor’s note: At 11 a.m., the FBI says “there is no longer a threat to the community” after Sol Pais was reportedly found dead near Mount Evans. Eagle County Schools lifted the lockout at 11:05 a.m.
Once again, the threat of gun violence by a mentally disturbed individual is impacting Eagle County Schools, which put out a release on Wednesday morning announcing lockout procedures at all of its schools due to a woman deemed a credible threat in the Denver area.
Many schools on Colorado’s Front Range, including as far north as Fort Collins, were closed on Wednesday after police reported 18-year-old Sol Pais, of Miami – a woman infatuated with the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting near Denver – flew to Colorado on Monday and purchased a shotgun. That prompted lockdowns and a massive manhunt.
Pais was last spotted in Clear Creek County, which is in the foothills west of Denver and along the Interstate 70 corridors that runs approximately 100 miles west up to Eagle County. Anyone spotting Pais is urged to immediately call 911. She is considered armed and dangerous.
The main high school in the eastern or upper end of Eagle County – Battle Mountain High School – is no stranger to school threats. A student was arrested just last spring for making credible threats, and another student made another series of threats in the spring of 2017, prompting added security measures and impacting prom and graduation.
Local students participated in protests and school walkouts to support the victims of the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting in February of 2018.
Here’s a statement on the latest incident from Gov. Jared Polis:
“We know that there is a lot of anxiety right now in Colorado. We want to reassure you that federal, state, and local law enforcement are working together and dedicating all of their resources to locate this dangerous individual. The most important thing that we can do to assist law enforcement is to continue to share the photograph of the suspect and report any information. Coloradans have a history of coming together in times of need and now is no different. Our biggest priority is keeping our children safe. We thank you for your patience while we deal with this threat.”
Here’s a statement from Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet after Pais’ body was found:
“We are grateful to federal and local law enforcement, school leaders, and others who took swift action to keep our kids and schools safe. The tragedy at Columbine High School 20 years ago was the beginning of a new era – where teachers and students participate in drills to prepare for the possibility of violence in their classrooms, where parents are forced to talk to their young kids about the unthinkable, and where a threat like the one we just lived through feels not only possible but real. We can’t accept this as our new normal. No child should live in fear of going to school, and no parent should live in fear of their child never making it home.”
Former Eagle County Schools Superintendent Jason Glass, now in that same role for Jefferson County Schools, was quoted in The New York Times describing a plan to re-open the schools if the Pais situation wasn’t resolved quickly:
“We did not wish to have one person hold all of the schools in the front range of the whole state hostage,” Glass told The Times.
And here’s the original press release from Eagle County Schools on Wednesday morning:
For all parents:
The school district has been participating with overnight communications involving the threat for Denver Metro Area schools. Law enforcement recommends that rural schools operate on a LOCKOUT basis. There is not a direct, credible threat to rural schools.
Out of an abundance of caution, all public schools in Eagle County will be operating on a LOCKOUT basis in response to the threat that continues in the Denver Metro Area. Normal late-start Wednesday schedules will be followed and buses will run on today’s normal schedule.
LOCKOUT means school continues as normal inside, but no one is allowed in who is not identified as an emergency contact with identification. Students are not allowed outside. Field trips to the Denver Metro Area are canceled. Allow for extra time and expect to present identification.
There will be a heightened local law enforcement presence at schools today.
Again, operating on LOCKOUT is out of an abundance of caution – there is not a direct, credible threat to rural schools. A decision will be made at noon regarding afterschool activities.
Para todos los padres de familia:
El distrito escolar ha estado participando con comunicaciones durante la noche que involucran la amenaza para las escuelas del área metropolitana de Denver. La policía recomienda que las escuelas rurales operen en forma LOCKOUT o BLOQUEO. No existe una amenaza directa y creíble para las escuelas rurales.
Debido a la gran precaución que queremos tomar, todas las escuelas públicas en el Condado Eagle operarán con el proceso LOCKOUT en respuesta a la amenaza que continúa en el área metropolitana de Denver. Se seguiran los horarios de entrada tarde de los miércoles y los autobuses escolares estarán circulando en el horario normal del día de hoy.
LOCKOUT significa que la escuela continúa normalmente dentro del edificio, pero no se le permite a nadie entrar que no esté identificado como un contacto de emergencia y con una identificación. No se permiten estudiantes fuera de la escuela. Los paseos al área metropolitana de Denver se han cancelado. Permita tiempo extra y espere el tener que presentar una identificación.
Habrá una mayor presencia de la policía local en las escuelas el día de hoy.
Nuevamente, operar en LOCKOUT es por tener mucha precaución, no existe una amenaza directa y creíble para las escuelas rurales. Se tomará una decisión al mediodía con respecto a las actividades después de la escuela.