A former Houston police captain convinced of a vast conspiracy to steal the election allegedly ran a man off the road and held him at gunpoint, believing there were thousands of illegal ballots in the back of the man’s box truck.
In fact, Mark Anthony Aguirre’s alleged victim was an ordinary air conditioner repairman, prosecutors say. There was nothing fishy in the back of his truck, nor in the repairman’s home in a nearby mobile home community in Houston, which Aguirre said he and others had surveilled for four days straight, police said.
But it gets stranger: The day after the ex-cop allegedly held the terrified repairman at gunpoint, convinced of a massive election conspiracy that did not exist, he received a wire transfer for $211,400, according to prosecutors. The money came from a conservative group that’s pumped up election fraud conspiracy theories, and which is led by prominent right-wing activists in Texas.
All that — the alleged car ramming, brief hostage-taking, and wire transfer — happened in late October, as President Donald Trump and his allies across the country flailed to make the case that, if he lost his bid for reelection, it would be the result of massive and unprecedented fraud. Aguirre was arrested Tuesday, nearly two months later, and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Police knew about Aguirre’s alleged actions within minutes. In fact, according to a police officer’s affidavit, he had called them three days before the incident, urging them to conduct a traffic stop for his voter fraud investigation. When police refused, Aguirre said he would conduct his own “citizen’s arrest,” according to the affidavit.
Officers were on the scene in time to see that “citizen’s arrest” for themselves, according to the affidavit: The first cop on the scene found Aguirre with his knee on the repairman’s back. Police interviewed the repairman and Aguirre, and even searched the repairman’s home, with his permission, to investigate Aguirre’s claims of a voter fraud conspiracy.
Among other things, according to a police affidavit, Aguirre stated that the repairman had 750,000 fraudulent mail ballots, that Mark Zuckerberg had given $9.37 million for ballot harvesting, and that the repairman was “using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”
After initially claiming to be working with others, Aguirre changed his story and refused to name them, police said in the affidavit. He refused to say who moved the repairman’s box truck after he’d run into it — though the repairman told police he’d heard Aguirre order another unnamed suspect to search his box truck and then move it away from the scene.
But the ex-cop did have a few choice words for the police who arrived at the scene, according to the affidavit.
“The defendant told Affiant that Affiant can be a hero or part of the problem,” one officer responding to the scene recounted. “The defendant told Affiant, ‘I just hope you’re a patriot.’”
Patriot or not, that officer eventually referred the incident to the public corruption division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
The office hasn’t responded to TPM’s question about the timing of the charges. But in a statement Tuesday, District Attorney Kim Ogg said Aguirre “crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed.”
Aguirre was fired from the Houston Police Department in 2003, after commanding a street racing raid involving 278 arrests in a Kmart parking lot, the Houston Chronicle noted. Prosecutors dropped all charges resulting from the arrests — none of which specifically alleged street racing violations — and the department was hit with a wave of lawsuits over the incident.
The conservative group that allegedly funded Aguirre’s private investigative work this year, the Liberty Center for God and Country, wired Aguirre $266,400 between September and October, according to grand jury records described by police.
The group’s CEO, Steven Hotze, is a prominent right-wing activist who’s lobbed lawsuits over everything from COVID-19 restrictions to voting rights. He unsuccessfully sued to limit early voting and toss 127,000 ballots cast through a drive-thru location. An affidavit from Aguirre was filed in the first effort. In the document, dated Sept. 27, the ex-cop stated that he was investigating “a wide-ranging and fraudulent ballots harvesting scheme in Harris County intended to rig the elections in the Houston/Harris County area.”
Liberty Center’s president, Jared Woodfill, told the Texas Tribune Tuesday that he was aware of Aguirre’s arrest, but wanted to hear the ex-cop’s side of the story.
He’ll have a chance soon enough: Aguirre is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.