The photo released by Denver police of the suspects looks like something out of a horror movie. But everything about it is real, down to the shock it caused Ousman Ba as he saw, for the first time, the people authorities believe are responsible for his friend’s death.
“I was like, ‘wow,'” Ba said. “How can somebody be so evil?”
The photo shows two masked and hooded figures. A third person is visible, but you cannot see the their mask. Police released it 13 days after the fire on August 5 near the 5300 block of North Truckee Street in far northeast Denver.
Saturday will mark a month since the fire took the lives of Djibril Diol, 29, Adja Diol, 23, and their nearly three-year-old daughter, Khadija. Hassan Diol, 25, and her infant daughter, Hawa Beye, died in the fire as well. Authorities confirmed the fire had been intentionally set. It’s still under investigation.
Ba and Amadou Dieng, Diol’s friends, will host a rally on Saturday to pressure Denver police and the city to help find the people responsible for setting the fire. Ba said the community is mourning the deaths and wants answers. He’s hoping anybody who has information about the incident will contact police.
Ba has kept in contact with Diol’s two brothers, his father, who lives in New York, and his mother, who lives in Senegal.
“It’s been tough for them. For the past month, they’re in that mental state where it’s just horrific,” Ba said about Diol’s two brothers.
A Denver police spokesperson said the fire is being treated as a homicide. The Denver Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation.
Ba said he met Djibril Diol — who friends called “Jibby” — in 2015 while the two were students Colorado State University. Ba, a political science major, said he connected right away with Diol, who studied civil engineering. They were both originally from Senegal and connected through mutual friends. Diol later became an American citizen, bringing Adja to the United States.
“He was just a great dude all around,” Ba said. “A loving, joyful person that just enjoyed life and really was a good friend, a leader, a brother. I consider him a brother. We had been through so many things together at CSU.”
Ba, 26, met Adja in Senegal last year before she came to the U.S. and even spoke to her on the phone as an excited Diol would send videos to her from Colorado. The two friends continued hanging out after their college days, when Diol ended up in Denver after Ba recommended he mover there. Ba said Adja was a joyful, humble person.
Diol got a job as a project engineer at Kiewit Construction after graduating from college. Ba said his friend had big plans to build infrastructure in Senegal with the education he got in Colorado.
Amadou Dieng met Diol when he lived in Summit County on the Western Slope, which Ba said has a big Senegalese community. Diol lived there and studied at a nearby college before moving to Fort Collins to get a bachelor’s degree.
The Diol family were Muslim. Denver police said they’re not investigating the incident as a hate crime, but that could change as the investigation progresses. Dieng said he understands investigations take time.
“At the same time, we also want to make sure that anything that can be done should be done,” Dieng said. He added, “These people did not do anything to deserve this kind of evil.”
Saturday’s rally starts at 4 p.m. outside the State Capitol.