An armed security guard who lost his job after taking an elevator ride with President Obama says the only thing he did wrong was trust that the Secret Service knew what it was doing.
Kenneth Tate was fired shortly after the president visited the Centers for Disease Control in September. Tate, who was employed by a private security firm, had been assigned to escort Obama around the building.
His supervisors then told him that he was going to operate the service elevator Mr. Obama was going to use. Everything appeared to be going right for Mr. Tate. The previous day he had taken off for his birthday and won $800 playing his birthday digits in the lottery.
Around 2:25 p.m., the presidential motorcade arrived at the back entrance of the C.D.C. On the elevator ride, Mr. Tate said, the president struck up a conversation.
"He acknowledged me, said, 'How you are doing?' He said, 'What's your name?' I told him my name, and he extended his hand, shook my hand, and I said it's a pleasure to meet him. And I proceeded to escort him upstairs."
"I was just proud," Mr. Tate said. "That was a big accomplishment to me." He said one of the Secret Service agents had told him that it was remarkable that Mr. Obama had talked to him, considering it had taken the president two years to acknowledge the agent.
After Obama left the CDC building, Tate claims he used his camera phone to snap a picture of the motorcade. He told the Times and CNN that says that contrary to earlier reports, he acted professionally inside the elevator. Tate also says he was falsely depicted as a convicted felon in the ensuing coverage—he has been arrested for multiple offenses but never convicted in a court of law.
"He was supposed to stay on the elevator and left to take pictures," the official said.
Agents reportedly got upset that he came too close to Obama's limousine—known as the Beast—and reported him to his superiors.
Tate's dismissal became part of a larger story about the Secret Service's screw-ups when news broke that the agents had no clue they let an armed man onto the elevator with the president. According to Secret Service protocol, only law enforcement agents maybe armed and they must be granted special clearance in advance.
Tate's now suing the security company, claiming he was fired without cause.
"From the reports, I was some stranger that entered the elevator," he told the Times. "I mean, I was appointed."
[image via AP]