By Thomas Peipert, The Associated Press
Police on Wednesday announced a $40,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of those responsible for setting a house fire in Denver that killed five recent immigrants from the West African nation of Senegal.
Lt. Matt Clark with the Denver Police Department’s Major Crimes Division said during a news conference that investigators have fielded about four dozen tips following the Aug. 5 fire and have reviewed “countless hours” of video footage from various surveillance cameras in the area.
Police also have released a surveillance photo showing three suspects wearing full face masks and hoodies. Investigators say the three fled in a dark-colored sedan after the fire was set in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood, a relatively new development of closely spaced homes near Denver International Airport.
Killed were Djibril and Adja Diol, 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.
“It makes it even harder when we had kids, babies that were caught in the middle of this tragedy. We owe it to them. We owe it to them to solve this crime,” said family spokesman Papa Dia, who wore a T-shirt printed with the photos of the five victims.
Police, fire officials and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating because there are indications that it was arson. Authorities have not elaborated on the evidence because they say they do not want to compromise the investigation.
Meanwhile, some Muslim advocacy groups have called on police to consider the possibility of a hate crime, but police officials have said detectives are looking at all possible angles.
“We fully understand and appreciate the concern that the families and the residents may have been targeted either because of their race or religion,” Clark said. “This is certainly an element of the investigation that we’re actively probing.”
Dia said that possibility has spread fear in Denver’s African immigrant community.
“These people are home in the middle of the night, and their life was taken away. … I cannot express enough the fear that exists in the community, and the only thing that would put us at ease is by helping us solve this crime,” he said.
After the fire, Senegal President Macky Sall tweeted in French that he was monitoring the investigation closely, and he wished the surviving victims a speedy recovery. Senegal Consul General Elhadji Ndao flew to Denver at the request of his country’s leaders and said he is looking forward to the investigation.