Police on Friday said a house fire on Wednesday in Green Valley Ranch that left a Senegalese-American family dead was deliberately set by “unknown persons” who fled the scene, but the department isn’t investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Denver police said the fire at the 5300 block of North Truckee Street happened at about 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The department identified the fire victims as Djibril and Adja Diol and their three-year-old daughter, Kadidia, and Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Beye. Papa Dia, founder of the African Leadership Group and a Senegal native, said Djibril Diol came to the United States and later became a U.S. Citizen.
The family was Muslim, according to the Colorado chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Denver Police Division Chief Joe Montoya said that while the department isn’t investigating the incident as a hate crime, he said that could change as the investigation progresses. Montoya said the department “doesn’t want to get tunnel vision” into a motive for the case, so they will be looking into all possible angles.
Djibril Diol’s brother Moussa Diol attended the briefing. He kept his head low while spoke quietly.
“That was my family. My everything,” Diol said. “It’s hard to really talk right now because I’m still heartbroken right now, but it hurts. It hurts a lot to wake up and lose your family like that.”
Dia said there are roughly 2,000 Senegalese nationals living in the metro area. He said “everybody” showed up at the house in far northeast Denver to show support. He characterized Djibril Diol as a model resident in Denver.
“The community is living in fear right now because we don’t know,” Dia said. “We don’t know if we’re being targeted, we don’t know, and that makes it even more scary.”
Montoya declined to answer most questions about the ongoing investigation, which is being completed alongside the Denver Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Montoya declined to say whether one or multiple people are suspected in the case.
Montoya said the department has given its full attention to the case. He said police have spoken to family members about the incident.
“I want people to see the picture of this family and understand this is a family that was thriving,” Montoya said, standing next to a photograph of Djibril and Adja Diol.
Senegal Consulate General Elhadji Ndao spoke during the briefing and thanked Denver police for their work. Ndao flew to Colorado after the fire earlier this week. He asked for justice to be served, “for the sake of peace and security” in Denver and for the Senegalese community.
Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and the ATF are offering a $14,000 reward for information about the incident. Denver police chief Paul Pazen and Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson were also in attendance during Friday’s briefing.