Outside Looking In
I had one person stop me when I was at the post office in Minneota last Friday and ask me when I was going to stop writing about Casey McCoy, emphasizing the point that he should have been smart enough to not have gone to Africa in the first place, using a few choice expletives to describe the corruptness in Africa.
Figuring he was just kidding because of the magnitude of this newsworthy story on the local front, I told him I was going to write a weekly update.
The man pulled his hat tighter on his head, gave me an exasperated look, and walked out the door without saying another word.
I'm not sure what he's going to think when he looks at this week's edition and sees another story about Casey on the front page, plus more on him in this week's "Outside Looking In" column.
Had I been besieged with negative input on telling McCoy's story each week, I would realize enough is enough. But we had over 18,000 hits on our website on last week's story, more than double what any of us can remember on any previous story on the web. I had 118 emails from individuals that are not from the Minneota area over the course of McCoy's plight, plus hundreds of calls, emails, Facebook messages and texts from people I do know, all asking me for details.
The fact is, that this is a big story. This was a Minneota native and high school graduate who was treated like a prisoner when Togolese officials should have realized the young man just wanted to go home and they should have gone out of their way to help him get back home. But they wanted to first bleed him out of any money they could get from him.
I have learned a lot about Casey before, during and after this horrific nightmare. What I have learned is this is one of the most caring individuals I have ever met. Nearly every time I talked to him long before he went to Togo, Africa, he asked about how to help someone with a medical crisis or helping with a local fundraiser. It was always about someone other than himself.
I spoke with him at length during his time holed up in a mold-infested room with bugs and filth prevalent. We cried together and we laughed together. I could tell he was scared to death, yet as I mentioned in my column a few weeks ago, he was more concerned about others back home than he was for his own well-being.
When Casey was relegated to house arrest in a rented home with two or three armed guards at a time assigned to watch him, Casey felt sorry for them; even the two or three that treated him rudely. It was 100 degrees with extreme humidity on most days and these guards were sweltering. So, Casey took bottles of cold water out to them.
It rarely rains in January in Togo. During a rare six-hour rain one day, Casey saw the guards were drenched with no protection because they were dropped off at the location each day and had no vehicle to get into to shelter from the rain. Casey took a couple of pairs of socks that he had packed for the trip and brought them out to the guards so they had something dry on their feet.
"I'm a compassionate person and they were just doing their job," was Casey's explanation. "These were police that were low on the totem pole in their first and second years. They got the short end of the stick by having to stand outside the house and guard me. They didn't want to be there. They would rather be home with their family. I just wanted to make it more comfortable for them."
Some of the Casey's Togolese neighbors would hand-wash his clothes for him and bring him food because they knew of his situation and he was friendly toward them. One neighbor brought him a bottle of whiskey and some bottles of Coke. Casey took the beverages and some Solo cups out to the guards one day and poured them some "stiff" drinks, while he sat on the front steps and conversed with them using Google translator to help figure out their French mixed with broken English.
When the guards heard Casey was finally going home, they had so much admiration for him for treating them like human beings, that they celebrated outside his house by drinking beer.
Four of the six police assigned to guard him even requested his contact information so they could stay in touch with him after he left their country. All four of them have since contacted him to make sure he made it back home safely.
Casey's Togolese attorney has also contacted him, as have two U.S. Embassy personnel requesting a photo of him, his girlfriend Lacie Packard, and his daughter, Ellie. Several of them mentioned how happy they were to see the big smile on his face.
Because of the unexpected expenses that piled up for Casey while in Togo such as COVID tests (they are not free there), paying for the police to guard him, transport fees, attorney fees, court costs, his fine and more, a friend set up a GoFundMe account. You could tell Casey was uncomfortable knowing he needed some assistance. After all, he was the one that was usually helping someone else.
Get used to it, Casey. It's your turn to get some help ... after all, you deserve it.
For those wanting to contribute to Casey's GoFundMe account, the link is https://gofund.me/544b4758.