On the night a police car pulled behind 16-year-old Kevin Bui’s vehicle in early September 2020, nearly a month had passed since someone set fire to a home in northeast Denver, killing a baby, a toddler and three adults in a ferocious overnight blaze.
Investigators had released photos of three suspects — ghostly figures in sweatshirts and full masks — as well as of a car thought to be involved in the crime, a dark, four-door sedan with tinted windows. But it would be months yet before they’d charge Kevin, his 16-year-old friend Gavin Seymour and a 15-year-old boy with the murders. The older teens are due in court Friday.
When the police officer pulled up that night, Kevin stopped his car. He waited for the officer to step out and start walking toward him. Then he took off.
“Now you just made the car even hotter,” his older sister Tanya Bui rebuked him in text messages later. “…IDK what to tell you anymore bud…wtf.”
“I (was) just like, what did I possibly get pulled over for besides them recognizing my car,” Kevin responded. He didn’t say why police would be looking for his car.
The conversation between the siblings was included in 224 pages of text messages offered as evidence in a federal drug and gun case against Tanya Bui, who has not been charged in connection with the fatal fire, although a federal prosecutor said there is evidence she helped her brother plan or cover-up the crime.
The text messages span from July through September 2020 and paint an intimate picture of the pair’s relationship, offering insight into a case in which authorities have so far released few details. Kevin and his sister were arrested in January, six months after the fire.
Kevin and Gavin each face 60 charges, including murder, in connection with the Aug. 5, 2020, fatal fire at the Green Valley Ranch home. Five members of a Senegalese family — 29-year-old Djibril Diol, 23-year-old Adja Diol, their 2-year-old daughter Khadija, 25-year-old Hassan Diol and her 6-month-old daughter, Hawa Baye — died in the blaze. Others escaped by leaping from the burning house.
Kevin and Gavin, both now 17, are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday in which prosecutors from the Denver District Attorney’s Office are expected to detail the evidence against the teenagers.
The text messages show that Kevin frequently dealt drugs at his sister’s request, at least once leaving school to do so. The siblings sometimes sparred — “You irritate my soul,” Tanya Bui once griped — but largely worked together to deliver marijuana and fentanyl to customers all over the Denver area.
Kevin carried out about 30 drug deals at his sister’s direction over 55 days between July and September 2020, according to the text messages. He met customers in Lakewood, Thornton, Wheat Ridge, Littleton and Denver. He stopped at McDonald’s restaurants, single family homes, apartments, street corners and paint shops.
“You wanna go serve some people for me?” Tanya Bui texted on Aug. 3, 2020.
“Where?” Kevin answered.
“Evans and Tejon and 9th and Downing,” Tanya Bui responded. “I’ll pay for your tank if you want to go.”
“…A okay,” Kevin replied.
Once, Tanya Bui, who was 23 when she was arrested in January, sent her brother to buy a new SIM card for a cell phone, telling him not to use his name and to pay cash.
“I didn’t have any cash so I paid on my card,” he reported back later.
“OMG dude, you shouldn’t have got it,” Tanya Bui answered. “…Now they’re going to track it to your name.”
Other times, the siblings chatted about groceries, dentist appointments, their parents, breakups and taking out the trash. At no point in the months of text messages included in court filings do the siblings discuss the Green Valley Ranch fire. Four days after the fire, Tanya Bui took her brother, Gavin and another friend “for a drive,” the messages show.
Attorneys for the siblings did not return requests for comment for this story.
On the night Kevin fled from the traffic stop, Tanya Bui warned her brother that the decision to run would eventually catch up to him, and told him not to tell their father, who ran an accounting business (now also under investigation) where the siblings sometimes met to exchange drugs, according to the text messages.
“Don’t say anything to dad,” Tanya Bui wrote.
“I think I should, but regardless if it gets that far I’ll turn myself in for dad,” Kevin responded.
“…You seriously need to chill out and quit freaking out for nothing, that’s gonna get you in more trouble than anything,” Tanya Bui responded. “You’re only 16 Kevin. For one, you don’t need to be driving around all crazy at night and doing no hot boy (stuff) because you already know why. You’re my little brother and I love you but I can’t save you from everything.”
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