DENVER — Colorado's Senegalese community is reacting to the revelation that an arson that killed five family members in Green Valley Ranch last August was not a hate crime, but a case of mistaken identity.
The family's attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, said the rest of the family is still trying to come to terms with what happened.
"They're just lost and they're just sort of going through this process," he said.
Law enforcement sources told Denver7 Investigates that three teenagers, wearing masks, were allegedly seeking retribution for a drug deal gone awry, but set fire to the wrong house on Aug. 5.
Five immigrants from Senegal — Djibril Diol, his wife, Adja, their daughter, Khadija, his sister, Hassan and niece, Hawa Baye — died in that blaze.
"The safest place that anybody could be is (their) house," said Papa Dia, of the African Leadership Group. "And being home in the middle of the night, and for people to come just by mistake... to have five precious lives taken by mistake doesn't make it any easier."
Dia said he hasn't heard from law enforcement contacts himself that it was indeed a case of mistaken identity, but it is a topic of conversation in the community.
Dia, a spokesman for the Diol family, said they're surprised by the age of the suspects, but are glad arrests have been made.
"We want everybody that's been involved in this to be held accountable," he said.
Gavin Seymour, 16, and Kevin Bui, 16, and an unnamed 15-year-old were in court Wednesday morning to hear the charges against them.
The hearings were closed.
The 16-year-olds have been charged as adults. The 15-year-old is being charged as a juvenile, but that could change. All three face multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, arson, burglary and conspiracy.
Mohamedbhai said Djibril's father is one of his clients.
"He cries every day," the attorney said. "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."
Mohamedbhai added, "We have two families (my clients) who are forever changed, forever broken, and now we have the children of three other families, who will likely be forever broken because of the unbelievably horrible and poor decisions, the criminal decisions, that these juveniles made."
The suspects are due back in court on Feb. 17.