Armed Man On Elevator With President Did Not Have Criminal Record As Initially Reported
Just over a month ago, when the Secret Service was in the middle of the scandal that led to the departure of the agency’s director, it was reported that an armed man with a criminal record had been on an elevator with President Obama. As it turns out, the story is a bit more complicated than that:
An armed security guard who was on an elevator with President Obama had not been convicted of a felony, as previously reported, according to two people briefed on the incident.
The man, who worked for a private security contractor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was removed from the president’s elevator during his Sept. 16 visit to Atlanta. The man was questioned by Secret Service agents after he did not comply with a request from agents that he stop recording images of the president with a camera.
Agents became concerned that the private contractor might be a risk to the president because of his behavior; others who later ran a background check on the guard discovered some prior arrests in his history. Background checks are typically run in advance to screen anyone who might come in close contact with the president. Under Secret Service protocols, people with arrests or convictions for assault and related offenses or any history of mental illness are typically barred from having any access.
The Post reported the elevator incident on Sept. 30, citing sources with knowledge of the case who did not provide the name of the guard. The Post account described the man as a convicted felon; the Washington Examiner, which first reported the incident that day, said he had a criminal record.
The two people briefed on the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, provided information Friday in order to clarify details of the man’s background.
The guard was terminated the day of the presidential visit to the CDC — when his supervisor at the security contracting firm arrived to find agents questioning the guard, he told him to turn over his gun on the spot.
The incident was considered a significant security breach within the Secret Service ranks, because an armed person with an arrest record was able to board an elevator with the president.
There was still a security breach, because someone other than Secret Service or authorized law enforcement personnel should not be armed while in the presence of the President according to long established protocols. Exactly how that happened is a question worth finding an answer to. However, it’s important to note that the initial reports that the man in question had a criminal background were untrue so the danger to the President was arguably less than it may have seemed when the story was initially reported.
To answer a question that may occur to some, since it doesn’t appear to me that the person in question was ever identified by name in the media, it doesn’t appear that he would have any kind of defamation claims against media outlets. Additionally, it’s unlikely that he’d have a cause of action against his employer since he was apparently somewhere that he should not have been at the time that the President was on scene.