DENVER – Thursday marks one year since five members of a Senegalese family were killed in a house fire in Green Valley Ranch that prosecutors are treating as arson.
The fire killed Djibril and Adja Diol, their 2-year-old daughter Khadija, Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye. Three teenagers were arrested in connection to the alleged arson earlier this year, and two of them have been charged as adults with dozens of counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder arson, burglary and more.
The family had immigrated from Senegal, and Djibril “Jibby” Diol was working as an engineer on the Central 70 project after receiving his civil engineering degree from Colorado State University.
Sources told Denver7 earlier this year that the family’s house was set on fire by mistake and that the teenagers were allegedly trying to set fire to a different home after a drug deal gone wrong. The next court dates have not been set for the two teenagers charged as adults, however.
On the anniversary of the horrific fire, we’re taking a look back at the timeline of how the investigation has unfolded thus far.
Aug. 5, 2020
A Denver police officer called the fire department to report a fire at 5312 N. Truckee Street around 2:40 a.m. Officers and firefighters arrived just before 3 a.m. and tried to help people inside but were pushed back from the heat.
Inside, the five people were found dead in the lower part of the home. Three people who had been on the second story were able to jump to safety from the fire.
Police said later that day that there was evidence the fire was arson, and the DPD homicide unit got involved in the investigation.
Papa Dia, the founder of the Africa Leadership Group, confirmed the family was from Senegal.
“We are heartbroken. We cannot believe that an entire family would be just gone in a matter of minutes,” Dia said. “Right now, we have a lot of questions — more than we have answers. So we look forward to having clarification on what transpired, but one thing I can tell you is we need the entire support.”
Aug. 6, 2020
Macky Sall, the president of the Republic of Senegal, sent his condolences to the family and said his administration was monitoring the investigation. A GoFundMe page set up for the family raised more than $100,000 in the first 48 hours it was up.
The Senegalese Consul General also flew in to Denver at the government’s behest to offer their respects to the family personally and to meet with local leaders, including Mayor Michael Hancock.
“I’ve gained that they have good faith in their religion. They have good faith in their community. They have good faith in the legal system. I can say that they are also very grateful for the support they are getting from their community, from their families, and are looking forward to the next few days and what it would reveal,” said Consul General Elhadji Ndao.
Aug. 7, 2020
The five family members were formally identified as Djibril, Adja, Khadija and Hassan Diol and Hawa Baye, and a $14,000 reward was announced for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects in the case.
“It hurts a lot just to wake up and lose your family like that. Nobody deserves this,” said Mousa Diol, the brother of Djibril.
Aug. 18, 2020
Investigators for the first time released mysterious photos of three people wearing full masks and dark hoodies, along with a picture of a dark-colored sedan, saying they depicted the suspects in the arson.
Sept. 5, 2020
Friends and family members of the Diols held a rally at the state Capitol calling for justice in the case a month after the fire. Qusair Mohamedbhai, the attorney for the family, called the suspected arson one of the worst crimes in the city’s history. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen pledged the department would not rest “until we hold those accountable for this horrific crime and bring justice to this family.”
Nov. 24, 2020
The reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the people responsible for the deadly arson was increased to $50,000 — $10,000 of which came from the Colorado chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and $40,000 from Metro Denver Crime Stoppers.
Jan. 27, 2021
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen announced the arrests of three teenagers — two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old — in connection with the fire, saying they would be held on charges including first-degree murder, attempted murder and arson. Pazen said the fire did not appear to be a bias-motivated crime, however.
"Today marks the first step in making sure we hold people responsible for this crime," said Mayor Michael Hancock.
Jan. 28, 2021
Neighbors and friends of the family said they were “elated” after learning of the arrests of the three suspects. Pazen, the police chief, said he would carry the case with him for the rest of his life.
Jan. 29, 2021
Tanya Bui was arrested and charged with federal counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Federal court documents found that she was paying for the cell phone of one of the suspects, who later was identified as her brother, Kevin Bui, who was charged as an adult days later in connection with the fire.
Feb. 2, 2021
The two 16-year-olds arrested in connection with the fire — Kevin Bui and Gavin Seymour — were formally charged as adults in the case. Both face 46 felony counts and 14 potential sentence enhancers, including first-degree murder, felony murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, arson and burglary.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office said it was also working to transfer the 15-year-old suspect’s case to district court.
The home at 5312 N. Truckee Street was torn down that same day.
That night, high-ranking law enforcement sources told Denver7 Investigates that the three suspects burned the house down in retaliation for a drug deal gone wrong, but picked the wrong house. The documents in the case are sealed, and little other information was released by the sources.
Feb. 3, 2021
The attorney for the family and their spokesperson said the family was still processing the deaths of their family members and the arrests of the suspects in the case, who appeared in court to learn the charges against them.
"He cries every day," attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said of Djibril Diol’s father. "There will be no explanation for him that will somehow fix how he feels. ... These are God-fearing, non-vengeful people who simply came to the U.S. for a better life, and that has all be taken away, and they're simply picking up the pieces of what's left."
In a federal court hearing for Tanya Bui, federal prosecutors said Kevin Bui helped his sister sell drugs.
Aug. 3, 2021
A friend of Djibril Diol partnered with Kiewit, for whom Diol worked at the time of his death, and Colorado State University to establish a scholarship for civil or environmental engineering students at CSU called the Djibril “Jibby” Diol Memorial Scholarship.
"That’s my brother, I did it for him," said Diol’s friend, Ousman Ba. "I don’t know what he would say to me, but I just hope I made him proud and I made sure his name is remembered forever."