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.”
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.