The police department in Denver, Colorado is investigating an arson fire that killed a West African family as a homicide. According to local news outlet, KMOV4 Senegalese immigrants Djibril and Adja Diol and their 3-year-old daughter Kadidia tragically perished in the fire, along with Djibril’s sister Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Beye.
Division Chief for Investigations at the Denver Police Department Joe Montoya said the fire was set deliberately, but the department would not yet reveal possible motives.
“I cannot get into the details right now. We are relying on the expertise of the Denver Fire arson investigators, the ATF and some of the evidence collected at the scene,” Montoya told KMOV4.
Police reportedly believe the fire was set by someone who then fled the area. The three adults and two children lived in the lower level of a two-family house. The family living above them was able to escape the fire.
Montoya also added that investigators are being “very open-minded” about the case and examining “every possible angle.”
The Colorado chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations is calling for police to investigate the crime as a possible act of racial bias.
“Because the family members who perished in this tragedy are members of minority and immigrant communities, it would only be prudent to investigate the possibility of a bias motive,” Acting Board Chair for CAIR-Colorado Krista Cole said.
In a press statement, Montoya said that “if at some point we determine it was hate-motivated or bias-motivated, then we will definitely share that with the community.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise money so that the family’s remains can be returned to their home country.
“Djiby a cared for his family, his brothers and parents. Djiby a young man with a promising future in Civil Engineering has left behind a community that he so deeply loved and cared for,” the GoFundMe reads. “We are saddened by the loss of a loving Dad, a nurturing husband, and a caring brother to all of us. Please help the family with the cost of sending the bodies back homes for a proper burial.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and New York Consul General of Senegal Elhadji Ndao also expressed their condolences while speaking about the tragedy.
“The family needs help,” Hancock said. “We want to stand arm-in-arm with them. In Denver, everyone is welcome. This community stands with them.”