Family urges others to write Congress on behalf of Utah man detained in Congo

May 31, 2024, 2:15 PM | Updated: 3:10 pm

WEST JORDAN — Family members of a Utah man detained in Congo in connection with a coup plot said Wednesday they hoped for his safe return and urged others to appeal to members of Congress to help intervene in the situation.

Videos showed 21-year-old Tyler Thompson Jr. in custody after the attempt to overthrow the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 19.

U.S. officials confirmed to Thompson’s family that the man was still alive but they had not been able to make contact with him, according to Thompson’s father, Tyler Thompson Sr.

Thompson said he was concerned about his son’s treatment documented in the videos that have circulated since.

“They showed me some of the video clips and I just lost it,” he said during an interview Wednesday with KSL TV. “His doctor said if he ever gets hit in the head again really hard, it could cause permanent brain damage or be fatal, and so when we saw the video of him getting hit in the face with the butt of a gun several times, my heart just broke.”

According to Thompson and Tyler’s stepmom, Miranda, the 21-year-old began talking in March about traveling to Africa to meet his high school buddy’s family.

“It was just a family vacation to go down there and experience Africa,” Thompson said. “His dad said that he could bring a friend.”

The friend, 21-year-old Marcel Malanga, happened to be the son of Congolese opposition leader Christian Malanga.

Reports from Congo said Christian Malanga was killed while resisting arrest at the presidential palace.

Other friends of Marcel Malanga had reportedly heard different pitches in recent months about going to that country, including an offer of as much as $100,000 to be a security guard for Marcel’s father.

Thompson said his son had never mentioned anything about a security gig or anything related to the other stories that have since surfaced and believed his son thought he was going to Africa for a vacation.

“If one of my friends said, ‘Hey, dad wants us to come to Africa to go on a vacation,’ I’d jump at that chance in a heartbeat,” Thompson said. “I don’t think there was any intent besides going on a family vacation with his best friend.”

Thompson added his son had never shown any signs of “aggression” or even political activism.

“It’s the furthest thing out of his character that I could, ever, ever, ever even imagine,” he said.

The father turned emotional when he spoke about the support he and other family members had received from friends, neighbors, Utah’s senators and the governor.

“I can’t even tell you the amount of love and appreciation we have from that,” he said.

The family set up a website to advocate for Tyler’s safe return as well as a GoFundMe* account.

As family members worked to keep Tyler’s story in the public eye, they urged others to help by writing government leaders in hopes they will choose to intervene on Thompson’s behalf.

“I think our voice and our support is going to be one of the most significant things to be able to bring him home,” Thompson Sr. said.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Family urges others to write Congress on behalf of Utah man detained in Congo