Skip to main content

The Netflix series Waco is based on real events that occurred in Waco, Texas. Gary Noesner was the chief FBI negotiator during the 51-day standoff with the Branch Davidian religious sect residing at the Mount Carmel compound. He openly speaks out about his experience at Waco to this day.

Michael Shannon as Gary Noesner in 'Waco'
Michael Shannon as Gary Noesner in ‘Waco’ | Paramount Network

Was the ‘Waco’ FBI Negotiator, Gary Noesner, a real person?

The FBI negotiator in Waco, Gary Noesner, was a hostage negotiator for the agency for 23 years. He retired in 2003, after 30 years with the bureau. He published a book in 2010, Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, which is one of the novels the miniseries is based on. 

Noesner currently lives in Virginia with his wife, Carol. He also has three grown children. Although he is retired, he still speaks at law enforcement conferences and other corporate gatherings. He became a Senior Vice President with Control Risks after he retired from the FBI. Noesner continues to help clients in international affairs, including overseas kidnapping incidents. 

Why did ‘Waco’ FBI Negotiator Gary Noesner believe he was in a situation like Dr. Fauci and President Trump?

Throughout the series, viewers see the difficulty he had with his superior, who was managing the situation with the Branch Davidians. Noesner explains the accuracy of the series and how hard it was to negotiate with the officer in charge.

“I don’t want to turn it political, but I imagine that must be what it’s like for Dr. Fauci to talk to Donald Trump. Dr. Fauci knows his business,” Noesner told Brown Political Review. “He’s got years and years of experience, but he also recognizes that he does not make any of the ultimate decisions, Donald Trump does.”

Michael Shannon and Gary Noesner
Michael Shannon and the real-life Gary Noesner from ‘Waco’ | Chance Yeh/Getty Images

“You’ve got to gauge what the president’s mood is today and identify the driving factors behind his decision making,” the former negotiator continued. “Before you can, in this case, tackle the disease, you’ve got to tackle the guy that’s managing the disease. That’s a fairly good analogy for Waco.”

In short, Noesner explained that he had all of the training and experience negotiating in hostage situations, but his superior did not. Although he had authority on the subject matter at hand, he was not in charge of the case. 

FBI negotiator Gary Noesner had the experience at ‘Waco,’ but no one listened to him

“As a consequence, I found myself essentially having to conduct a class on negotiations in real-time for someone who felt that they already knew everything,” Noesner continued. “In reality, nobody had much experience in ever dealing with anything like Waco.”

The day after Noesner was removed from the case, the FBI sent tear gas canisters into the Mount Carmel building. A fire broke out inside the building around noon. Both the FBI and the Branch Davidians claim that the other side began the fire. Nine people escaped; however, 76 people died inside the building.

Read more: ‘Waco’: David Thibodeau Still Does Not Believe David Koresh Was a Con Man