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.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said at the time the case was first reported publicly that whistleblowers had come to him with a similar account and that allowing an armed person with a criminal history near the president was a serious security risk.
“You have a convicted felon within arm’s reach of the president, and they never did a background check,” Chaffetz said then. “Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family.”
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.
The news about the elevator incident, along with Post reports revealing that a White House fence-jumper had made it much farther inside the executive mansion than the Secret Service had acknowledged, led Obama to conclude that the Secret Service director Julia Pierson had to leave. She resigned Oct. 1, one day after the elevator incident was reported.
Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, declined to comment for this report.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.