A Colorado house fire has killed a Muslim family of five people in Denver, and authorities have opened an arson and homicide investigation into the deaths, which have resulted in an outpouring of grief and support from the community.
Djibril Diol, an immigrant from Senegal, and four family members perished in the blaze. A GoFundMe page says that the others who died in the fire were Diol’s wife, their toddler daughter, his sister, and his niece (9News reported that the fifth family member was a nephew).
Diol was remembered for his gentle personality and engineering work. The tragedy occurred in Denver’s Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. According to 9News, Diol worked for “Kiewit (a construction, engineering and mining services company) and had been working on the Central 70 Project.” The Denver Post reported that his wife and sister worked at Amazon.
“Because people did die in this fire, and we have indications through some evidence that it was arson, it will be investigated as a joint investigation with the fire department as a homicide,” Denver Police Division Chief Joe Montoya said, according to 9News, of the 3 a.m. blaze. “#DenverFireDepartment responded to 5312 N. Truckee & found a heavily involved fire. Unfortunately 5 fatalities were found in the home. Fire Investigators are working to determine cause with @DenverPolice,” the Denver Fire Department wrote in a statement on Twitter.
#DenverFireDepartment responded to 5312 N. Truckee & found a heavily involved fire. Unfortunately 5 fatalities were found in the home. Fire Investigators are working to determine cause with @DenverPolice.
A Press Conference is scheduled at 7am at that address @CityofDenver pic.twitter.com/Vhsf2rzCWQ
— Denver Fire Dept. (@Denver_Fire) August 5, 2020
“Look here, life is full of ups and downs my friend,” Diol wrote on his Facebook page in June. “However, never let life obstacles or anything someone says or does bring you down. Keep your head up and keep pushing forward brothers and sisters. Desire and Determination will overcome any obstacles. Love you all…”
NEW video from neighbor in Green Valley Ranch. @Denver_Fire investigating as arson. 3 adults, 2 children died. Investigators still on scene as of this tweet. Another neighbor told me they turned over surveillance video to police but wouldn’t share what was caught on cam. #9News pic.twitter.com/xfOlYRnKdt
— Ryan Haarer (@RyanHaarer) August 5, 2020
In 2018, Colorado State University profiled Diol, describing his dreams as an immigrant from Senegal. “Djibril Diol has needed exceptionally hard work, perseverance, and patience. His hard work pays off this month when he graduates from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering” the story read.
The story says he was the “first in his family to earn a degree,” which he did while meeting “family obligations, financially supporting relatives in both the U.S. and his native Senegal.”
“I think it makes you a more responsible person,” Diol told CSU for that story. “I’m grateful that I’ve pushed this far, and having my goals and passions behind all of this pushes me to do more.” He wrote plays for the organization Africans United while at the university, the story added.
“He was a wonderful man,” Daniel Straley told CBS Denver. “He was a peaceful man as friendly as could be. I couldn’t see how anyone would want to cause him harm.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Mayor Says the Fire Is Being Investigated as an Arson, Although The Cause Hasn’t Been Confirmed for Sure
The Denver mayor, Michael Hancock, called the blaze a “tremendous tragedy in the life of our community” during a news conference. “We won’t stop until we solve this crime, and we bring those who are responsibility for this tragedy to justice.”
Murphy Robinson, Denver’s public safety director, wrote on Twitter, “My heart goes out to the family and Denver community that lost 5 of our community members due to a house fire this morning. We are treating this as an arson, and a thorough investigation will be conducted.”
9News reported that three people escaped the blaze by jumping from a second story of the home, and police officers who arrived first on the scene tried to save people to no avail.
A neighbor woke up to this: massive flames engulfing a home in Green Valley Ranch. Five people died: 1 toddler, 1 child and 3 adults. Three others escaped by jumping from the second story. Fire fighters found evidence of arson. Police are also investigating this as a homicide. pic.twitter.com/f1gzt9nczB
— Emily Allen (@EmilyAReports) August 5, 2020
The blaze was quickly investigated as an arson, the mayor said, although he stopped short of saying it was an arson for sure. “I am going to tell you what it was. It was a horrific tragedy…We are going to do everything we can to investigate what happened here and, if there are people responsible for this, to bring them to justice.”
Asked whether the fire would be investigated as a possible hate crime, the mayor said, “In this job and this job of the police and the arson investigators, we have to find traces of where the evidence takes us.” He said the police will work “to find those who might be responsible” to bring them to justice. Religion News Service reported that the family was Muslim. “He was a good person, a good worker and a good Muslim,” Diol’s brother, Abou Djibril, said to The Denver Post.
The family “depended on him. He was the root of the family, the foundation of the family, and now he’s lost, senselessly lost. We can’t explain it right now,” said the mayor of Diol.
He said the “horrific fire took the lives of five beautiful souls who quite frankly were excited about being an American.” He added, “We will do everything we can to find out who was responsible.” Hancock personally asked people of the state of Colorado to help the family through the GoFundMe page.
New York Consul General of Senegal Elhadji Ndao said in the news conference that the community had faith in the legal system. He said that the mayor’s words helped the community believe that “those who are responsible for this horrible act will be brought to justice.”
2. Diol Was Described as a ‘Young Man With a Promising Future in Civil Engineering’
The GoFundMe page to help the family has raised more than $100,000.
“Please help raise funds for the funeral of Djiby and his Family,” the page reads.
“Early morning on Wednesday August 05th the Senegalese-Mauritania community in Denver woke up to tragic news. Djibril Diol, aka Djiby had passed away in a tragic house fire. Djiby, his wife, his sister, his daughter and his niece all passed away.”
The page says that Diol “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. 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.”
People expressed condolences on the GoFundme page. “Words cannot express how deeply sad this is. I pray for the family and send my condolences for their tragic loss,” wrote one woman.
CSU Civil Engineering and Planning wrote on Facebook, “Heartbroken to learn about the tragic deaths of recent grad Djibril Diol and members of his family in a fire in Denver. The Fall 2018 Outstanding Grad had plans to build roads in his native Senegal.”
3. The Senegalese Community Held a Day of Mourning & Muslim Leaders Are Calling for a Hate Crime Investigation
Muslim leaders want a hate crime investigation. “Law enforcement authorities must take this suspected murder and arson seriously,” Scott Simpson, Muslim Advocates’ public advocacy director, said in a statement to Religion News Service. “We call on law enforcement to immediately investigate whether the deadly fire in Green Valley Ranch was motivated by hate. The family of those lost and the Muslim community in Denver deserve justice and peace of mind.”
According to CBS Denver, the Senegalese community held “a day of mourning” for the family.
The mayor joined remaining members of the family, the television station reported. “Obviously this is a tragedy. A tremendous tragedy,” said Hancock to the television station. “We want to stand arm and arm with them. Make sure the crime is solved, but also to remind them that in Denver everyone is welcome.”
“This loss has left a huge void in our Colorado Muslim community, just days after celebrating the Islamic holiday, Eid Al-Adha,” the Colorado Muslim Leadership Council said in a statement, according to Religion News. “We call upon the Denver Police and Denver Fire Departments to expedite their arson investigation and bring those responsible to justice. The tragic loss of life of this young family will not be tolerated.”
4. Diol Was Remembered as a Gentle Soul & ‘Quick Wit’
Tributes flowed in for the family.
“Djibril was such a gentle and kind soul; I still cannot believe he is gone along with his precious family and relatives. I will greatly miss him and I hope him and his family experience peace in the afterlife. His family and community will be in my thoughts,” a woman wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“Djibril was a great friend and coworker to my brother and his bright smile, quick wit and strong family values will be greatly missed,” wrote another woman.
“Our condolences on your loss. It was always a delight we see the little one on her tricycle walker,” a man commented. A woman remarked, “This is too overwhelming to comprehend. I pray for the sorrow and grief this family has to endure. This awesome man that gave so much to support his family. He enjoyed his work and did it with love. I see he was so loved by many. Yes indeed he touched many lives.”
A woman commented, “My deepest and heartfelt condolences for this tragic loss: May God ease and comfort during this painful process. Jibby will always be remembered as a good friend and a great engineer. May their souls through the mercy of God, may rest in peace.”
5. Diol Came to the United States More than 10 Years Ago to ‘Make a Better Life for His family’ & Graduated From Colorado State University
“With great sadness we share with you the death of Djibril Diol and four family members including his wife and child in an early morning fire at their Green Valley Ranch home in the Denver area,” the Islamic Center of Fort Collins wrote on Facebook.
“He came to the US not more than 10 years ago to make a better life for him and his family which included graduating from CSU. He was a very respectful, helpful, bright, religious man, and an energetic person who was a help to his family that lived in the US and to the majority that still reside in Senegal. He was a tall man with an even bigger heart.”
The organization added: “We ask Allah to forgive the misdeeds, accept the good deeds, and to make strong the faith and patience of the family and friends who are now mourning his loss.”