Denver police on Wednesday said three teenage boys were arrested in connection to a fire in the city’s Green Valley Ranch neighborhood that killed five members of a Senegalese-American family last summer.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said the department believes the three are responsible for setting a deadly fire. The three teenagers include two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old. Pazen said they are being held on several counts, including investigation of first-degree murder. The three were arrested on Wednesday morning in Jefferson County.
Pazen did not identify the teens.
Police believe the fire at 5312 N. Truckee St. on Aug. 5 was intentionally set. Among those killed in the fire were Djibril Diol, 29, Adja Diol, 23, and their nearly 3-year-old daughter, Khadija, as well as Hassan Diol, 25, and her infant daughter, Hawa Beye.
Pazen provided no details about the teenager’s motives, adding that due to their age he could only provide limited information. He said that providing additional details could jeopardize the case. He said the evidence and circumstances of the crime indicated the crime was not bias-motivated. There had been concerns from people in the Senegalese community that the Diol family had been targeted. The family was Muslim.
Pazen said Wednesday marked a significant day in providing “a small sense of relief to the Diol family.” He noted the department had “limited information” on the crime, though he called it one of the most complex investigations he’s seen in his career.
“Arresting those who committed this crime was one of the top priorities for the entire safety department,” Pazen said.
Mayor Michael Hancock — who noted Wednesday marked the first time he had attended a police announcement for an arrest — offered condolences to the Senegalese community in the metro area. He called the fire “one of the most heinous” crimes he’d ever seen in Denver.
“Many of us, if not all of us, have wondered to ourselves and out loud, who could commit such a crime to such a beautiful family,” Hancock said.
The crime was monitored by the Senegal Consulate General Elhadji Ndaol, whom Hancock said he spoke to on Wednesday. Ndaol visited Denver following the crime last year.
Despite Denver police suggesting there was no ongoing threat to the Senegalese community, its members in Denver and Aurora continued to be on edge months after the incident. Papa Dia, founder and CEO of the African Leadership Group, has acted as the Diol family’s spokesperson and shared some of those concerns. He thanked people in Colorado who supported the Senegalese community after the deadly fire.
“It is a relief,” Dia said. “However, there are still some concern about the crime, especially not knowing the why. We need to still protect the investigation.”
Additional counts the teenagers are being held for include first-degree murder with extreme indifference, three counts of criminal attempted murder in the first-degree with extreme indifference, two counts of first-degree assault with extreme indifference, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of second-degree burglary, three counts of first-degree arson and eight counts of fourth-degree arson.
Pazen thanked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, CrimeStoppers, the Denver District Attorney’s Office, Denver Fire, the city’s public safety department and the U.S. Secret Service and for providing resources for the case.