Gary Noesner Had a Groundbreaking Role in the FBI After Waco

  • Waco, the 2018 miniseries that originally premiered on the Paramount Network, is now streaming on Netflix.
  • Many viewers have wondered what happened to Gary Noesner, the FBI agent who led the hostage negotiations between the Branch Davidians and the U.S. government.
  • Noesner wrote a memoir documenting his time working on the case.

    In 1993, a 51-day standoff took place at the Mount Camel compound in Waco, Texas between the FBI/ATF and religious cult, the Branch Davidians. Upon the FBI’s suspicion that the group, led by David Koresh, was illegally stockpiling weapons, a timeline of events led to a tragic fire that killed 76 members of the Davidians, including its leader and 20 children.

    Originally a Paramount Network miniseries that debuted in 2018, Waco is now streaming on Netflix, and viewers are wondering about what happened to the hostage negotiator who became the liaison between Koresh (and the Branch Davidians) and the U.S. government. Here’s what we know about him and his involvement with the series.

    Noesner was only involved in the first 25 days of the standoff.

    Although the series makes it appear as though the FBI agent was involved with the siege the entire time, it turns out that wasn’t true. According to a 2018 interview with Time, Noesner was removed from the case 25 days into the standoff because other members of the FBI thought of him as an “impediment to those who wanted to take a more aggressive role.” Noesner also pointed out that the agency called him into headquarters on the final day to watch the tragedy on the monitors. “I watched the fire,” he told Time. “I got angry and walked out. I got more angry than I had ever been in my life.”

    The Paley Center For Media Presents: "Waco"

    Michael Shannon and Gary Noesner in January 2018.

    Chance YehGetty Images

    He retired from the FBI and wrote a memoir documenting his experience.

    According to his official website, Noesner retired from the FBI in 2003 after a 30-year long career, including 23 years as the chief of the agency’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, the Critical Incident Response Group. He now speaks as an expert about hostage negotiations and his time with the siege in various interviews and speaking engagements.

    In 2010, Noesner released the book Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, detailing his time working in the bureau. In the memoir, he wrote about various standoffs he’d been involved in, including Waco—the book later served as a basis for the miniseries.

    He became a consultant on the miniseries.

    Michael Shannon, the Academy Award-nominee who portrayed Noesner in the miniseries, told GQ in 2018 that Noesner was often on set (Shannon would have dinner with him) to offer insight on how the events unfolded. Although he interacted with Koresh during the standoff, Noesner never met any of the other Davidians. It was only while on set in 2017 that he met David Thibodeau, one of the few survivors of the fire and other consultant on the series.

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