Investigators stand outside the home of Djibril Diol and his family members after their bodies were found dead in an arson that occurred on Aug. 5, 2020, in Denver. Credit:AP Photo

Gavin Seymour, one of the trio who set a house on fire that killed five Senegalese immigrants in 2020 was sentenced to 40 years in prison recently. The teenager had previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the deadly arson attack on Truckee Street in Denver’s Green Valley Ranch neighborhood.


Gavin Seymour, 19, pleaded guilty in January to one count of second-degree murder for his role in the Aug. 5, 2020, fire that killed five members of a Senegalese family. Denver District Court Judge Karen Brody sentenced him to the maximum possible term he faced, various news sources reported.

Seymour and two other teenagers — Kevin Bui and Dillon Siebert — were charged with setting the fire in the middle of the night, killing family members Djibril Diol, 29; Adja Diol, 23; Khadija Diol, 1; Hassan Diol, 25; and 6-month-old Hawa Baye. Three other people escaped by jumping from the second floor of the home.

Gavin Seymour was handed the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison for his role in the deadly blaze. Credit: Denver Post

Siebert, who was 14 at the time of the fire, was 17 when he was sentenced in February 2023 to three years in juvenile detention and seven years in a state prison program for young inmates.

Seymour and Bui, who is accused of being the ringleader, were both 16 at the time of the fire. The case against Bui, who faces multiple counts of first-degree murder, is still pending.

The investigation of the fire dragged on for months without any leads. Fears that the blaze had been a hate crime led many Senegalese immigrants to install security cameras at their homes in case they could also be targeted.

The boys were identified as suspects after police obtained a search warrant asking Google for which accounts had searched the home’s address within 15 days of the fire.

The victims of the fire were Djibril Diol, 29, his wife Adja Diol, 23, and their daughter Khadija Diol, 1, along with Djibril’s sister, Hassan Diol, 25, and her 6-month-old daughter Hawa Baye. Credit: Cbsnews

Bui told investigators he had been robbed the month before the fire while trying to buy a gun and had traced his iPhone to the home using an app, court records said. He admitted setting the fire, only to find out the next day through news coverage that the victims were not the people who robbed him, according to police.

Attorneys for Seymour and Bui challenged the search warrant at the time, but the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the search for this case.

Police claimed Bui Googled the residence 13 times two weeks before the fire, according to the warrant. A subsequent search of Bui’s Snapchat revealed messages he allegedly sent to Seymour saying that he had been robbed. Police believe the trio had “somehow attributed” the robbery to the home where the Diol family lived and allegedly burned it down as revenge, the warrant had stated.

Early this year, Seymour pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree murder. In exchange for the plea, 60 other counts against him were dismissed. Those charges included multiple counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and arson.

As a result of the plea, he faced between 16 and 40 years behind bars. Family members of the victims and Seymour spoke for hours on Friday. Each side made arguments for the minimum or maximum sentence.

Prosecutors said Kevin Bui was the ringleader who mistakenly thought someone who had stolen his phone lived in the home. Credit: Cbsnews

Seymour’s family described him as a good kid who was a “follower” who gave in to peer pressure.

“Teenagers often succumb to peer pressure. I think all our lives would be different if we were judged by one mistake we made while growing up,” Seymour’s father, Michael Shane Seymour, said.

“No words I can say will change that or make it any better. I pray for the victims in the Senegal community every day.”

They put forth the argument that he should be given another chance due to his age, immaturity and his ability to be rehabilitated. They also pointed out he had no prior criminal history

“This tragedy does not define his soul,” his mother, Stephanie Tyler, said. “Gavin is not a monster – He made a grave decision. He is ready to atone.”

Family and friends of the Diol family strongly disagreed – with several of them saying that only a monster could do something horrible, while some even went as far as wondering why Colorado had no death penalty laws.

Hamady Diol, who testified by phone from Senegal with the help of a translator, lost his son, daughter, and grandchildren in the fire.

“I’m powerless. I’m unlearned – but know that the people you killed they couldn’t even kill a fly,” he said. “The people you killed were my hope and life. Know you haven’t just killed five people -myself and their mother – we’re breathing – but we’re dead.”

Three people survived the fire by jumping from the second story. Credit:Cbsnews

Others talked about the wide impact on the immigrant community. In the immediate aftermath of the fire – with no arrests and no motive known – many feared the fire was racially or religiously motivated. They worried they too would be targeted and killed.

Kevin Bui is currently awaiting sentencing while Seymour apologized in court during his sentencing for his role in the fire.

“If I could go back and prevent all this I would,” he said. “There is not a moment that goes by that I don’t feel extreme guilt and remorse for my actions. I want to say how truly sorry I am to the family members and community for all the harm I’ve done.”

About Author /