June 26th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Inside the strange world of Gary Faulkner

Editor's note: CNN All-Platform Journalist Jim Spellman filed this post on his recent reporting on alleged Osama bin Laden hunter, Gary Faulkner:

For the last week or so I have been immersed in the world of Gary Faulkner, the man who went to Pakistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden.

I’ve spent time with most of his family, researched his criminal record and talked to his neighbors - but nothing prepared me to actually meet the larger than life amateur bounty hunter.

Tuesday morning, Gary’s brother, Todd Faulkner, called to tell me that the State Department said Gary would be released in a matter of hours.

The family was ecstatic.

They got to work booking flights for Gary’s long trip home from Islamabad to Denver. When it became clear the only flights available would give him a 6 hour layover in Los Angeles they decided to travel to LA to meet Gary.

I asked to tag along and the family agreed.  Watch the Faulkner interview

Todd Faulkner and I boarded our flight from Denver Wednesday morning and joined Gary’s mother and sister at the sprawling Los Angeles airport. Reporters were already on hand staking out the international arrivals area.

The family was getting nervous about all the press. They didn’t know what condition Gary was in or how he would react to the gaggle of press cameras.

I was getting nervous too. My plan was to try to get an exclusive interview with Gary during the Los Angeles layover. The Faulkner family agreed, but we didn’t know if Gary would be ready to talk.

The plan was to meet Gary after he went through customs and immigration, jump into an awaiting van and head over to a nearby hotel room CNN had booked to conduct the interview. If everything went as planned we would lose the rest of the press and Gary would have a chance to get cleaned up, reunite with his family, then sit down for the interview.

Before we made it to the van, I realized that nothing would go as planned with Gary Faulkner.

Gary emerged from a side door of the terminal flanked by TSA officers. His brother was ready to guide him straight to the van but Gary was ready to talk. He had a big smile on his face and looked to be in great physical condition.

The New York Post had reported that the Pakistani government might have shaved his beard –but he returned home with his beard, and long, flowing gray hair intact. He was wearing sandals, cargo pants and a t-shirt.

He had no interest in being whisked anywhere and immediately began talking to the press convened on the sidewalk. The click-click-click-click of the still cameras made it sound like a red carpet celebrity appearance.

Only 30 seconds in the media spotlight and he was loving it. A reporter shouted a question to Gary: "Were you scared?"

"This is not about me," he responded. "What this is about is the American people and the world. We can't let people like this scare us.

“We don't get scared by people like this. We scare them. And that's what this is about. We're going to take care of business and we will take care of business very soon!"

Bystanders and even a few reporters cheered.

Finally his brother was able to drag him away and we jumped in the van and sped away.

I introduced myself and he immediately agreed to do an interview, and in fact he was ready to do it right there in the van but everyone agreed to get to the hotel and give him a chance to gather his thoughts.

When we got to the hotel room, the Faulkners asked me and the rest of the CNN crew to give them a few minutes of privacy. We stepped out in the hall and at this point, I was wondering if the interview was going to actually happen. Then, about 20 minutes later, the door opened and we went back in. Gary was ready for the interview, but we would be limited to 2 minutes.

We get right to it. Gary plopped down on the couch and I pulled up a chair.

“I got off my butt and I put my life on the line to go out there," he said. "My life is a story that you won't believe – but you know what all that matters is I stood up for what I believe.”

Read more about what Faulkner said

We started to get into some details about his confinement when his brother Todd tried to end the interview. Gary didn’t want to stop talking but we had exceeded the 2 minutes we agreed to, so we stopped the camera.

The Faulkners have been extremely generous in allowing us access to their family and we now got a look at the kind of thing all families go through from time to time, but didn’t have reporters in the room for it.

An argument broke out between Todd - who wanted to protect his brother - and Gary, who wanted to speak for himself. I know they were a bit embarrassed to have us witness this but it really was a loving scene. Brothers who argue but never hold a grudge.

Gary won and we continued the interview.

Gary is a very passionate guy and things get a little heated in the interview. It’s what the family was worried about but it’s what makes Gary the guy he is. He speaks his mind the way he wants and he takes the actions to back up his words. Take him or leave him.

Immediately after the interview I spoke with a CNN executive to go over how we would handle the interview. He asked me the question that was on everyone’s mind: "Is he sane?"

My answer was yes, he is quite sane. Is he a conventional 9-to-5 guy? No, and he never will be.

Was his plan to capture or kill Osama bin Laden armed with a pistol, a sword and night vision goggles likely to succeed? Probably not, but every day people do risky things like climb mountains or sail around the world simply to say they have done it.

Gary’s goal was to capture or kill the most wanted man in the world. If he managed to succeed there would be a $25 million reward waiting for him.

It may not be as crazy as it sounds.

soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. rickinmo

    He's crazy! There's no sense in trying to analyze this guy. Nothing he says or does will make any sense.

    June 26, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brad Waldbaum

    Bin Laden would have sent Gary to his imaginary maker in about five seconds... that is if Gary actually got within 700 miles of Bin Laden. What a PR spectacle this was though!!

    June 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Doug

    This guy was doing the right thing... he should have been equipped with the best gear the military has and given directions to Bin Laden's suspected whereabouts. The people second guessing him have the problem IMHO.

    June 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      That's fine, Doug. You can pay for Faulkner's weapons and support. I'll continue to help pay for the legitimate military effort.

      June 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      oh totally. i'm not funding his personal expeditions.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Get Real

    Doug, you don't think the ACTUAL military is there trying to get him?? It's not like Bin Laden is sitting out on his porch eating fudge-pops. He's most likely in a cave surrounded by sycophants who would gladly kill anyone who gets in their way. The only thing a guy like Gary is good for is PR for lunatic Christian groups. Do you think Gary would strap a bomb on himself and walk into Bin Laden's cave... nah, he's too busy trying to sell his story.

    June 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. blue willie

    Bin Laden is Americas current boogie man. No way will the government let a citizen catch him. He means more to the military as a free man. Without Bin Laden on the loose how would the government justify the war in Afghanistan? They would have to admit that it is not about terrorism. We are there to protect an oil pipeline being built through the country. It stretches from the Caspian sea, through Iraq and eventually Afghanistan.
    That is what the war on terror is really about, keeping terrorists away from the oil.

    June 26, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Exasperated

    Resources (military, otherwise) were surely diverted so that we could keep tabs on this Quixote- how about presenting him the bill for same?

    June 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      does the same apply to every American who gets arrested abroad? it's not like it's illegal to travel to Pakistan or Afganistan. neither are under any sort of sanctions in that manner. maybe the government can sue the families of those hikers who got arrested in Iran?

      June 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rod

    I think David Bowie wrote a song about this. I'm afraid of Americans.

    June 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      damn right. And thank the Americans for that fear.

      June 27, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. David Stahl

    Wow, what do you know?! An american who is not sitting on his butt in apathy, or just spewing negative stuff out of his mouth like an armchair critic but actually was willing to put himself out there and try to DO SOMETHING!! I don't care what is up with this guy personally, his beliefs, whatever, all I know is that this GARY did something for himself and for his country. This is freedom at work. He was taken to the streets. Way to go!

    June 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • matthew urzua

      Thanks for apreaciating gary,Im a wounded vet ant still a soldier,Theres a texan saying shoot first and ask questions later,garys saying is similar take action than ask questions later thanks for his support,not many americans acceptt his patriotism because the have never seen such a hero, and His cnn interview shut them up,now they dont know what to do with there lifescause such a person of his statue made it to the big leages,

      June 27, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Aziz

    I commend the guy's "purpose" and efforts. I think his delivery is entertaining, especially when he's asked if he thought he came close to finding Obama; Though he doesn't strike 'me' as one dying for media attention.

    June 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. American

    If he wants to find Bin Laden he should prob. go to Langley Virginia. All-CIA-DUH.

    June 26, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Victor

    Gary will one day succeed on killing Osama bin Laden. That terrorist is a threat to our entire country and the world, and I want him dead! I just hope that bin Laden hunter from the Centennial State has the tools to kill the terrorist and the suicide bombers without being bombed. After all, Gary Falkner is considered the "Rambo" of Colorado. And in case you are reading this, please don't post any bad comments on me, ignore the nay-sayers, and just root for Gary Falkner because he is the only man in the U.S. to put a terror on the terrorists.

    June 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alvin

    This guy really helps solidify the stereotype of typical Americans

    June 27, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. ryan

    I admire how everyone rags on the guy, as they sit on there computer in there comfy home and type... you all can go screw yourselves... 1 man gets up and attempts to go get someone who was responsible for 3000k deaths, and everyone things hes crazy...wait he is crazy... but crazy as in brave... anyway all you fat weak people keep slamming the keys on your keybaord and watching tv, while gary keeps looking... Will he find him? probably not, now that hes known, but cheers to him! hes got my respect... but remember, its not like he publicized his attempt to get him when he left... it just so happen he got caught that it became public...

    June 27, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. damiao

    http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blogspot.com pretty funny...

    June 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wavejump1100

    now that bin laden was found and killed only 300 miles away from where this guy was looking he doesnt seem as crazy as some of these comments do

    May 4, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
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