Three teens have been arrested on murder and arson charges in connection to a Denver house fire that killed five people in a young Senegalese household last summer
Two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old were taken into custody on Wednesday, facing a total of 28 charges in connection with the deadly blaze.
The suspects whose names are withheld because of their ages, are being held on first-degree murder, burglary, assault and arson charges
Teens are accused of setting the Diol family’s Green Valley Ranch home on fire in the early hours of Aug 5, 2020
Three occupants of the home survived by jumping out of the upper floor windows, but Djibril, 29, and his wife Adja Diol, 23, were killed in the blaze along with their 22-month-old daughter Khadija
Their relative, Hassan Diol and her infant daughter Hawa Baye, also perished in the fire
Denver Police chief Paul Pazen said the evidence does not indicate that the crime was bias-motivated
Skeptical of the police direction, the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Colorado is seeking full disclosure
Three teenagers have been arrested in arrested in Jefferson County, in connection to a massive house fire in Denver that left a Senegalese family, including two young children, dead last summer.
The arrests were announced Wednesday. The boys face a total of 28 charges in connection with the deadly blaze.
Two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old were taken into custody on Wednesday on first-degree murder, burglary, assault and arson charges, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said.
The teenagers are accused of targeting the Diol family’s home in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood, a relatively new development of closely spaced homes near Denver International Airport, in the early hours of August 5.
Surveillance photos showed the three suspects wearing full face masks and hoodies as they approached the home around 3.30am. Investigators said the three fled in a dark-colored sedan after the fire was set.
Djibril, 29, and Adja Diol, 23, were killed in the blaze along with their 22-month-old daughter Khadija, as well as relative Hassan Diol and her infant daughter Hawa Baye.
Three other people managed to escape by jumping from the second floor of the home. They were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Pazen said the evidence does not indicate that the crime was bias-motivated, and police cannot release many additional details about what happened because of the ages of the suspects.
‘While we are saddened, we are also thankful that those who allegedly committed this crime were brought to justice and placed in custody,’ he said in a press conference.
Shortly after the fire, a $50,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the arrests of those responsible for the deadly fire, including $10,000 from the Colorado chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The group had called on police to consider the possibility of a hate crime.
‘It’s been a rough year, not just for us but for all of us because of the pandemic. But on top of that, having to deal with the loss of beautiful people like these,’ said Papa Dia, a family spokesman who also is a Senegalese immigrant. ‘We are grateful, but we are still in pain. Arrest has been made, but we know it´s not going to bring these beautiful people back.’
Police, fire officials and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are still investigating because there are indications that the fire was arson.
Authorities have not elaborated on the evidence. Chief Pazen called the investigation “very extensive” and emphasized that he could not provide details without “unnecessarily potentially jeopardizing the case.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Wednesday he had spoken to Senegal Consul General Elhadji Ndao about the arrests.
Hancock described the fire as ‘one of the most heinous crimes I’ve ever seen or witnessed in our city, as mayor or otherwise. … It hit me to the core.’
While police have said they do not believe the crime was biased motivated, Krista Cole is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Colorado. The group is calling for Denver Police to release more information about why the suspects set fire to the home. She says it’s a case that’s made the entire immigrant community uneasy.
“You just look at the type of attack it was and immediately, the things that start coming to mind for motivation are, well they’re from Africa, they’re immigrants,” said Cole. “What is the motivation? Can someone explain why these individuals circled the house and lit it on fire in the middle of the night.”
The suspects were first arraigned in court on Thursday, but it’s unclear if District Attorney’s office will seek to charge the three suspects as juveniles or adults.
If the suspects are charged as adults, they could be facing you could get a life sentence with parole eligibility after 40 years.
However, if they’re charged as juveniles, they would be facing the maximum of seven years in a youth services facility.