ATLANTA (AP) — A security guard fired after President Barack Obama's trip to Atlanta said Monday that he lost his job because he snapped a picture of the presidential motorcade to send to his mother and is humiliated by news reports wrongly claiming he's a convicted felon.
Kenneth Tate, 49, worked as a guard for Professional Security Corp., a security contractor at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. As part of his job duties, he carried a concealed .40-caliber handgun issued to him daily by his employer.
He rode in an elevator with Obama during the president's Sept. 16 visit to the CDC, though the U.S. Secret Service was apparently unaware that Tate was armed. That incident was publicly revealed after a man scaled the White House fence and entered the building. Those security breaches and other embarrassments led to the Oct. 1 resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.
Tate said the affair cost him his livelihood and his reputation.
"This is a nightmare. My whole life (has) been changed upside down," Tate said. "I'm trying to figure out which way to go. How do you go anywhere when it seems like the door has been closed on you? Your reputation (has) been tarnished. The embarrassment."
The Washington Post initially reported that Tate had been convicted of crimes, but subsequently corrected the claim. The Associated Press has found no evidence of a conviction against Tate.
The office of Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who has helped lead Congress' investigation into the Secret Service, said a whistleblower had provided him with the same information the Post initially reported.
The president of Professional Security Corp., William Banks, told The New York Times that Tate did not have any felony or misdemeanor convictions. The Times first reported Tate's version of events.
Banks did not return multiple calls from the AP seeking comment.
Tate said he was twice charged with misdemeanor offenses in the 1990s, but he was never convicted. One incident involved an argument with a girlfriend who is now his wife. Tate said the second incident resulted from a dispute over how his sister was treating a newborn baby. Tate said he was later awarded custody of the child. His employer knew about that history, and it was also vetted by a Georgia state agency that licenses security guards.
Tate said he never hid the fact that he was armed, and no one in the Secret Service asked. His employer gave him a gun at the start of every workday, and his license to carry is documented in an Internet database available for public inspection.
CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds confirmed Tate worked as a security guard at the agency's campus, and she said CDC officials requested that Tate's employer reassign him after Obama's visit. She would not comment on why the agency made that request. U.S. Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback declined to discuss Tate's description of events.
The day of the visit, supervisors called Tate into the CDC's security office and told him he would be escorting the president, he said. He said he helped CDC and Secret Service agents test the elevator that Obama would ride and accompanied security officials on building walkthroughs. Obama made small talk with Tate in the elevator, the guard said.
"He acknowledged me," Tate said. "He asked me what my name was. And he extended his hand and shook my hand. I thanked him and said I was proud."
As Obama was departing, Tate walked out the front of the building with his cellphone to take a picture of the presidential motorcade, he said. A Secret Service agent waved him away, and he was later confronted by an agent and bosses. He said he admitted taking a photograph but did not know the area around the limousine was off-limits.
"I just tried to get a picture for my mom, she's 81 years old, just to show that I had met the president, some memorabilia for her," he said. "... When I got back, the agent stated that somebody was going to lose their job because no one ever got that close to the motorcade. But I didn't know it was going to be me."