Family: Man relied on faith while stalking bin Laden
When Forrest Gump met Rambo, you had 50-year-old Gary Brooks Faulkner.
Fervent in faith, perhaps a tad naive, the Greeley construction worker who was detained by Pakistan authorities earlier this week — at the time of his arrest, he was wielding a sword, pistol and night-vision goggles in his latest manhunt for Osama bin Laden — isn’t off his rocker, Faulkner’s Grand Junction family says.
“He believes if he doesn’t plan well enough, he’s relatively sure God will take care of it for him,” John Martin, Faulkner’s brother-in-law, said at the north Grand Junction home he shares with his wife, Deanna, where reporters from the New York Times and international media outlets Tuesday desperately sought to speak with anybody. “And you know what, after half-a-dozen (trips to Pakistan to kill bin Laden), I think he’s right.”
Leaving Denver on May 30, Gary Faulkner arrived June 3 in the town of Bumburate and stayed in a hotel there. He was assigned a police guard, as is common for foreigners visiting remote parts of Pakistan.
When he checked out without informing police, officers began looking for him, according to the top police officer in the Chitral region, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan. Faulkner was found late Sunday in a forest.
“We initially laughed when he told us that he wanted to kill Osama bin Laden,” Khan said. But when officers seized the weapons and night-vision equipment, “our suspicion grew.”
Khan said the American was trying to cross into the nearby Afghan region of Nuristan.
Chitral and Nuristan are among several rumored hiding places for bin Laden along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Tuesday, Faulkner was being questioned by intelligence officials in Peshawar, Pakistan’s main northwestern city. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Asked why he thought he had a chance of tracing bin Laden, Faulkner replied, “God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him,” Khan said.
Khan said police confiscated a small amount of hashish, enough for a single joint, from Faulkner.
Deanna Martin on Tuesday said she was primarily concerned with her brother’s access to dialysis treatments, which he started roughly four months before his latest trip to the region.
“I don’t want my brother tortured to give up names (of those who guided him in the country),” she said.
Altogether, Faulkner’s family said it was the sixth or seventh attempt by Gary Faulkner to travel to Pakistan. Faulkner reportedly told authorities earlier this week it was the seventh time he had been in the country.
Five years ago, one of the trips ended when Faulkner attempted to use a hang glider, but instead crashed into the side of a mountain in northern Pakistan, leaving him with broken ribs and legs, the Martins said.
“He hadn’t been hang gliding before,” they said.
In another of his earlier bids, Faulkner was prevented from launching a sail boat from San Diego bound for the Middle East after U.S. Coast Guard officials advised the boat wasn’t seaworthy, according to Ron Faulkner, Gary Faulkner’s uncle in Loma.
“So he waited until it was dark and launched the boat for Pakistan,” said Ron Faulkner, who said he couldn’t recall the supplies and gear Faulkner had gathered to cross the Pacific Ocean.
After several days of sailing, a large storm beached the boat on the shores of the Baja California peninsula, he said.
Two years ago, inside Pakistan, Faulkner sent a desperate e-mail to family, saying his guide had been killed, his documentation had been taken from him, and that he needed help getting out of the country, Deanna Martin said.
“(The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan) told me he was in an area the military couldn’t get to,” she said. “Thank God for Western Union.”
The family wired $900 to a “safe” location, and Faulkner emerged unscathed.
Despite the close calls, Faulkner’s family said they haven’t advised him to stay put. Gary Faulkner — who has no military background, but does have a penchant for hunting game in Colorado’s mountains — has never detailed to his family how he plans to kill bin Laden once he finds him, the Martins said.
“I don’t want to know those details,” Deanna Martin said. “You hear it for 10 years, and I guess you start to become numb to it. So when he comes back, I say, ‘OK, did you have a good adventure?’ “
Prior to his hunts, Faulkner had traveled to the Middle East and South America, undertaking volunteer construction work, alone, in places where needed. Within months of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he expressed to the family his belief he had a “calling” from above and was to undertake bin Laden’s assassination. He gets around in Pakistan with the assistance of locals, as well as others he met in the region while he did volunteer work, and Faulkner’s language skills have improved during trips, typically lasting two to three weeks at a time.
“He comes home, works for about a year to save up enough money, and he goes back,” Deanna Martin said, adding she’s unaware of any other revenue source funding the trips.
“He’s said there are many other Americans, mercenaries, there trying to get (bin Laden).”
Gary Faulkner was in and out of Colorado state prisons between 1981 and 1993, serving a total of about seven years in five separate stints for burglary, larceny and parole violations, state officials said.
Hugo Corral, who owns a barber shop in Greeley, recalled cutting Faulkner’s hair a few months ago. He said Faulkner was quiet and wouldn’t answer his questions. After the haircut, Corral said, he saw Faulkner acting strangely outside his shop.
“He would walk, then stop, then do something like he was saluting something. It was kind of weird,” Corral said.
Through the glass of his shop, he said he could hear Faulkner cursing at no one in particular.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.