Utah woman describes ‘terror’ at seeing stepson detained and beaten after DRC coup attempt

Utah woman describes ‘terror’ at seeing stepson detained and beaten after DRC coup attempt
ARSENE MPIANA/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — The family of a U.S. national detained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after a failed coup attempt on Sunday said they were surprised to hear of his arrest in connection with the attack near the presidential palace in Kinshasa.

Miranda Thompson told ABC News that her stepson Tyler Thompson, who grew up in West Jordan, Utah, traveled to South Africa last month on what he said would be a vacation with the family of his close friend Marcel Malanga.

Thompson said that when she saw images of her stepson being detained and beaten by Congolese soldiers, she experienced “complete and utter shock.”

“It doesn’t feel real,” she said.

Thompson described her stepson as a happy and loving young man who grew up playing football and dreamed of one day building and flipping houses. Before this trip, the 21-year-old had never traveled on an airplane by himself, she said.

“He’s a kid. And he’s in a place where he knows nobody and doesn’t know the language. And he’s got to be terrified,” she said.

Tyler Thompson was named on Tuesday by a spokesperson for the DRC’s military, who named him in error as Taylor Thomson. He was detained alongside Marcel Malanga and another U.S. national, Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, according to Congolese officials. Marcel’s father Christian Malanga, who allegedly led the coup attempt last weekend, was reportedly killed in an exchange of gunfire with Congolese authorities.

Another U.S. national was mistakenly accused of being involved in the attempted coup. Cole Patrick Ducey, an engineer living in Eswatini, told ABC News Monday that he was not involved, despite reports online and in the media. DRC government officials also confirmed to ABC News that Ducey was not involved in the coup attempt over the weekend.

Miranda Thompson said that after Tyler flew to Johannesburg in mid-April, he traveled with Marcel and his father, Christian Malanga, to Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.

“From our understanding, the trip was to visit family, and that’s all we knew,” she said.

There, Thompson said, Tyler reported to his family that his vacation with the Malanga family had been interrupted by a bout of malaria, but that Christian Malanga had offered to fund an extension of the trip to make up for the lost time.

But Miranda Thompson said Tyler’s family were unaware of any plans to travel to the DRC, and that the events of May 19 seemed completely incompatible with the young man she has co-parented for a decade alongside her husband and Tyler’s mother and stepfather.

“He’s a great kid. He is loving and kind. He’s the best big brother there ever was,” she said.

Asked if she had a message for Tyler, Miranda Thompson said, “We love you. We are here to help in any possible way that we can. We just want you home.”

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