‘It doesn’t feel real’: Utah mother speaks out after stepson connected to alleged coup attempt

WEST JORDAN, Utah (ABC4) — The family of a U.S. national who was detained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after what officials are calling a failed coup attempt is speaking out, telling ABC News they felt terror and complete and utter shock after hearing the news.

Miranda Thompson said her stepson, Tyler Thompson, traveled to Africa with his close friend Marcel Malanga. The trip was supposed to be a vacation to visit Marcel’s family in the area.

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Both Tyler and Marcel were listed among those who were either detained or killed after the alleged coup. Videos and images spread showing them being detained and beaten. Miranda told ABC she felt a sense of terror when she saw them. She said it’s something you would only see in the movies.

According to the Associated Press, the alleged coup started in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC. A group reportedly attacked the residence of Vital Kamerhe, a federal legislator and candidate for speaker of the National Assembly of Congo. Officials said Kamerhe’s guards killed the attackers.

Tyler Thompson, 21, one of the Americans allegedly involved in an attempted coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Courtesy: Family of Tyler Thompson via ABC News)
Tyler Thompson, 21, one of the Americans allegedly involved in an attempted coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Courtesy: Family of Tyler Thompson via ABC News)

At the same time, Marcel’s father, Christian Malanga, was live-streaming a video from the presidential palace while surrounded by several people in military uniforms, the AP reports. Christian Malanga was later killed while resisting arrest.

“We are terrified for [Tyler] and the experience that he is having and what he must currently be going through,” Miranda Thompson 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.”

Miranda Thompson described her stepson as a loving and kind young man. He grew up in West Jordan playing football and dreaming of building and flipping houses. She called Marcel a respectful and kind young man and news of the events made zero sense.

Marcel’s mother, Brittney Sawyer, told the Associated Press that her son was innocent, declining to elaborate. In a Facebook post on Monday, Sawyer wrote that her son had followed his father.

“This was an innocent boy following his father,” Sawyer wrote. “I’m so tired of all the videos being posted all over and being sent to me. God will take care of you people!”

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Authorities are reportedly still investigating how Marcel and Tyler went from playing high school football in Utah to allegedly trying to unseat the leader of one of Africa’s largest countries, according to the AP.

Tyler Thompson’s family said they have been working with the U.S. Embassy in the DRC as well as government officials in the U.S. to gather information. For now, it’s just a waiting game to see what anybody can find out.

When 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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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