The Allure of Columbine Fandom

Shortly before the 20th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, an 18-year-old named Sol Pais sent much of the United States into a panic.

Without telling anyone her plans, Pais had flown from her home in Miami to Denver, where she bought a shotgun and then disappeared. When the FBI learned about her obsession with Columbine, it launched a manhunt involving more than 20 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Hundreds of schools closed, affecting more than 500,000 students. Pais’s picture was all over the news, which described her as “armed and dangerous.”

All of it — the manhunt, the school closures, the wall-to-wall coverage on local and national TV — was for naught. Law enforcement and the media had fundamentally misunderstood the story of Sol Pais: She never made any explicit threats, nor was there any indication that she intended to cause harm to others. That misunderstanding was based on a deeper failure to comprehend what drives young people to become fixated with the Columbine massacre — and what lies at the root of school shootings themselves.

In the third and final installment of UNSAFE: Learning from America’s School Shootings, VICE News Tonight explores one of the stranger and lesser known dimensions of Columbine’s legacy.

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