Armed Man On Elevator With President Did Not Have Criminal Record As Initially Reported

Obama With Secret Service

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.

FILED UNDER: National Security, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    I have always assumed that the Washington Post Reporter misunderstood the Secret Service when they report three arrests and assumed it was three convitions. The New York Times actually report that it was three arrest and not three convictions but since the New York Times was a few hours behind the Washington Post, the story had already been set in stone.

    This is a good example of how the internet and budget cuts are affecting journalism. The Washington Post and the Washington Examiner got the story out first. This indicates that the source of the story was Secret Service personnel in Washington, DC. The Atlanta Journal Constitution only reported the Washington Post story and did not add any of its own reporting. Journalism has gotten so bad that a local newspaper in Atlanta has no sources inside the CDC and could not even be bothered to call the public relations office for a comment. Also, I suspect that contractor worked for Chenega Corporation since that company has a large number of jobs posted for CDC that require clearances.

  2. Just Me says:

    I always found the Gun to be the bigger security breach. Mostly because I’m am unconvinced anyone with a criminal record is automatically a danger to the president (and having no record doesn’t mean no risk either-after all many a murderer has no prior record as well).

    Getting a gun into the presence of the president without the security detail knowing is concerning-a weapon in the president’s vacinity means the detail wasn’t kn it’s toes or failed in some way and if happened once it could happen again.

  3. rudderpedals says:

    It doesn’t matter, it’s out there. — Cokie’s law

  4. Eric Florack says:

    @Just Me: Gun phobic fear mongering.

  5. Mikey says:

    Here’s the former security guy’s side of the story. His name is Kenneth Tate and he’s mystified as to why he was fired.

    One Day in an Elevator With Obama, Then Out of a Job