DENVER — Three men were arrested for investigation of murder after a Denver bar was set on fire to cover up five killings committed during a robbery, authorities said Thursday.
‘‘I don’t want to say that it was a robbery gone bad, but it wound up being a robbery,’’ police Commander Ronald Saunier said of the early Wednesday deaths and blaze at Fero’s Bar & Grill. ‘‘The arson was set to try to cover up the crime scene.’’
Saunier declined to provide further details, and the medical examiner has not released any causes of death.
Dexter Lewis, 22, one of the suspects, stood silently, staring at the judge, as he made his first court appearance just hours after his arrest.
He was advised of the potential charges against him, then led from the courtroom in chains, mouthing ‘‘I love you’’ to his mother, Tammesa Jones, in the gallery.
She later said her son is an artist who is expecting a baby with his fiancee.
‘‘This is not something he would ever do,’’ she said.
Court records indicate that Lewis pleaded guilty to robbery charges in Jefferson County in 2008. There was no indication of a sentence being handed down in the records.
The others arrested for investigation of murder, robbery, and arson were Joseph Hill, 27, and his brother, Lynell Hill, 24. Charges have not yet been filed.
The fire occurred at about 2 a.m. on a poker night at the bar. Firefighters found the bodies of one man and four women, including the owner of the bar.
Investigators were led to the three suspects by tips received after a news conference. Saunier believes the men had been to the bar before.