Ex-Houston police captain accused of holding man at gunpoint to prove bogus voter-fraud claim

HOUSTON — Authorities arrested a former Houston police captain Tuesday after investigators said he ran an air conditioning repairman off a road and pointed a gun at him in hopes of proving that a massive voter fraud scheme was underway in Harris County, prosecutors said.

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Officials arrested Mark Anthony Aguirre, 63, on suspicion of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from the Oct. 19 encounter, according to officials with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The charge is a second-degree felony and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison upon conviction.

“He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “His alleged investigation was backward from the start -- first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened.”

Authorities said Aguirre had been paid more than a quarter million dollars by a group called “Liberty Center for God and Country” to investigate voter fraud schemes in the Houston area, CNN reported. In court records obtained by the Houston Chronicle, investigators said Aguirre claimed the air conditioner repairman had 750,000 fraudulent mail ballots in his truck. He also alleged that the man was “using Hispanic children to sign” the documents because the children have fingerprints that wouldn’t appear in any databases, the Chronicle reported.

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Prosecutors said he admitted to having conducted surveillance on the victim for four days prior to the October incident. According to the Chronicle, he called the Texas Attorney General’s Office on Oct. 16 to ask authorities to conduct a traffic stop on the repairman and that he said he’d “make a citizen’s arrest” after authorities told him such a stop wouldn’t be possible.

Prosecutors said Aguirre ran his SUV into the back of the repairman’s truck on Oct. 19 to get the technician to stop and get out of the vehicle. When the man got out, Aguirre pointed a handgun at him, forced him to the ground and put a knee on his back, authorities said. At least part of the incident was caught on a camera worn by a police officer.

Officers who responded to the scene found no ballots in the technician’s truck, which was filled with air conditioning parts and tools, KTRK reported.

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Aguirre’s attorney, Terry Yates, disputed the course of events laid out by prosecutors.

“I think it’s a political prosecution. I really do,” Yates told KTRK. “He was working and investigating voter fraud, and there was an accident. A member of the car got out and rushed at him and that’s where the confrontation took place. It’s very different from what you’re citing in the affidavit.”

Former Harris County Republican Party chairman Jared Woodfill, president of the Liberty Center, declined to comment on Aguirre’s arrest to the Chronicle, saying the former police officer was “nothing but professional and perfectly appropriate and good to deal with” as he investigated alleged fraud.

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“There are two sides to every story. I’d love to hear what he has to say, what’s his version of what happened,” Woodfill told the newspaper. “The way it was described to me, it just doesn’t seem consistent with what a former captain would do.”

Aguirre worked in the Houston Police Department until January 2003, when he was fired over a botched street-racing raid at a Kmart, according to the Chronicle and KTRK. He had been on the police force for at least 23 years.

Former Vice President Joe Biden won Harris County with about 918,000 votes to President Donald Trump’s about 700,00 votes. However, voters statewide picked Trump over Biden by more than 500,000 votes, giving the Republican Texas’s 38 electoral votes.

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The president and his allies have spent weeks claiming, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election. Officials nationwide, including U.S. Attorney General William Barr, have said no evidence has surfaced to support such claims.

On Monday, the Electoral College official nominated Biden to serve as the nation’s next president.