Three in Masks Sought in Denver House Fire That Killed Senegalese family

Detectives hope that a chilling picture of people in dark hoods and white masks leads them to those who set fire to a house this month, killing five members of a Senegalese family.

By Michael Levenson | The New York Times

The grainy image, which shows three people in dark hoods and white masks, looks like something out of a horror movie. Detectives in Denver, who released the picture on Tuesday, hope it will lead them to the people who set fire to a house this month, killing five members of a Senegalese family.

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The Denver police also released photos of the dark-colored four-door sedan in which the masked individuals are believed to have fled and said that information leading to an arrest could result in a $14,000 reward.

The fire, which tore through a two-story home in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood in northeastern Denver at about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 5, killed Djibril and Adja Diol and their daughter Khadija, 2, as well as Mr. Diol’s sister Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye, the police said.

All five were members of a loving, kind, helpful and energetic family from Senegal, the Colorado Muslim Leadership Council said in a statement.

“This loss has left a huge void in our Colorado Muslim community, just days after celebrating the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha,” the council said. “We call upon the Denver police and the Denver Fire Department to expedite their arson investigation and bring those responsible to justice. The tragic loss of life of this young family will not be tolerated.”

Police and fire officials said that they had opened a homicide investigation after determining that the fire had been set intentionally. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been helping to investigate, the police said.

The victims were all found on the first floor, the authorities said. A police officer tried to rescue the family members, but was thwarted by the flames, the authorities said.

“I want the family, the local community of Senegal and the country of Senegal to know you have our full commitment and devotion to this case,” Joe Montoya, the investigations division chief for the Denver police, said at a news conference on Aug. 7. “We have every hope that we are going to find the individual or individuals responsible for this and bring them to justice.”

Asked if the fire was a hate crime, Chief Montoya did not discount that possibility but said, “At this time, we don’t want to get tunnel-visioned into a motive.”

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“There are some cases on the front end that’s very evident as to what the motive was for a crime; this is not one of those cases,” he said. “So we have to go into it very open-minded and look at every possible angle.”

Chief Montoya said the police would notify the community if the fire had been motivated by hatred. The Denver police said on Wednesday that there were no updates on the case.

About 2,000 immigrants from Senegal live in the greater Denver area, according to Papa Dia, a Senegalese community leader and a spokesman for the family of the victims.

Mr. Dia said the flames and smoke were so intense that the family members could not get out of the house.

“Our hearts, our soul have been shattered,” Mr. Dia said at the news conference on Aug. 7. “The only thing that can give us peace is to be able to identify the individuals who did this horrific crime and bring them to justice.”

Mr. Diol’s younger brother, Moussa Diol, asked investigators to do all in their power to find those responsible.

“That was my family, my everything,” Mr. Diol said at the news conference. “It’s hard to really talk right now because I’m still heartbroken and so emotional right now. But it hurts. It hurts a lot, just to wake up and lose your family like that.”

Mr. Dia described Djibril Diol as a hard worker and a devoted family man who had graduated from Colorado State University and was a civil engineer. The man’s father lives in New York and came to Colorado after the fire, he said.

After the fire, a steady procession of Senegalese immigrants gathered outside the charred remnants of the home, which is near Denver International Airport.

“We are not used to seeing something like this take place,” Mr. Dia said. “We consider ourselves part of this society, part of this great nation we call home.”

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The president of Senegal, Macky Sall, wrote on Twitter after the fire that it was a serious matter and that he was closely monitoring the situation. He also extended his condolences to the families of the victims.

Speaking at the news conference, Elhadji Ndao, the consul general of Senegal, thanked the police for their work on the case.

“All we are asking for, and that you are concerned about, is for justice to be served, for whoever did this to be found and brought to justice for the sake of peace and security in this great city of Denver, but also for the sake of comfort to its citizens, including Senegalese nationals,” Mr. Ndao said.

Neil Vigdor and Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

Read from source The New York Times