A former security guard told CNN on Monday that he was unjustly fired after he took pictures of President Barack Obama’s motorcade during a visit to Atlanta in September.
Kenneth Tate worked for a private security firm when President Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on September 16.
He told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin in an exclusive television interview that he stuck to his assigned duties and tried to take photos after he was done escorting President Obama.
Members of Congress were upset when the media reported last month that Tate had a .40-caliber handgun while in an elevator with the President. That report, coupled with news of an incident in which a man jumped a fence and made it into the White House, led to the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.
Tate said he was issued a weapon by his security firm on the morning of the President’s visit, but no one told him it was a violation of Secret Service protocol for him to carry a gun, he said.
Tate’s lawyer, Christopher Chestnut, said his client was fired unjustly for leaving his post.
“He should never have lost his job for doing what he was supposed to do,” Chestnut said. He added that Tate is not a felon, contrary to prior media reports.
Tate said he was supposed to take the President to two different floors of one of the CDC buildings.
“Those tasks I carried out,” he told CNN. He said he also was asked to escort some Secret Service agents to the roof and other locations
A federal official with knowledge of the investigation into the case said Tate was supposed to stay on the elevator and left to take pictures. The CDC asked for him to be reassigned for violating his post order, the official said.
Chestnut disagreed with the assertion that Tate violated his duties.
“There was no assigned post. His post was for the entire building,” the attorney told CNN.
The fired worker told Baldwin he only took photos when the detail was over and did not take any images while on the elevator, as had been reported.
The New York Times, which also interviewed Tate, reported that when he took pictures of the President’s limousine, the Secret Service became upset.
So did his bosses, Tate told the Times. They spoke with him to the side and then the Secret Service took him into a conference room.
“I was upset. I’m nervous because I’m like, I don’t understand what’s going on,” he told the Times, explaining to the newspaper that he had taken pictures of dignitaries before.
He said he deleted the photos and CDC officials took his badge.
It had been a great day up to then, Tate told CNN. Like the President, he is from Chicago and he had been very proud to work on Obama’s detail. They even shook hands when the President, his aides and their Secret Service detail got on the elevator.
Chestnut wouldn’t be specific about what legal action they plan to pursue, saying only, “We anticipate seeking justice for Mr. Tate.”
The CDC didn’t comment. CNN also reached out to Professional Security Corporation, the security company that employed Tate, but didn’t hear immediately back.
CNN’s Vishal Mapara and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.