An ex-captain in the Houston Police Department was arrested Tuesday for allegedly running a man off the road and assaulting him in an attempt to prove a bizarre voter-fraud conspiracy pushed by a right-wing organization.
The suspect, Mark Anthony Aguirre, told police he was part of a group of private citizens investigating claims of the massive fraud allegedly funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and involving election ballots forged by Hispanic children. He said the plot was underway in Harris County, Texas, prior to the Nov. 3 election.
Aguirre said he was working for the group Liberty Center for God and Country when, on Oct. 19, he pulled a gun on a man who he believed was the mastermind of the scheme. His victim, identified as "DL" in the police affidavit, is an air-conditioner repairman. Authorities found no evidence that he was involved in any fraud scheme claimed by Aguirre.
Harris County 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."
"His alleged investigation was backward from the start — first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened," Ogg said.
Claims of voter fraud during this year's election — by President Trump, Aguirre and others — have been debunked. Evidence that President-elect Joe Biden won the election hasn't stopped Trump and others from challenging the results in court — an effort that has also repeatedly failed. This week, the Electoral College made Biden's victory official.
Aguirre's scheme was reportedly part of a paid investigation by the Liberty Center group, whose CEO is Republican activist Steven Hotze. It was later discovered that Aguirre was paid $266,400 by the organization for this involvement.
The Houston Chronicle says Aguirre was fired from the police department in 2003 after a controversial raid at a Houston Kmart parking lot.
Liberty Center for God and Country's Facebook page says the organization's goal "is to provide the bold and courageous leadership necessary to restore our nation to its Godly heritage by following the strategy that our pilgrim forefathers gave us."
In a meandering Nov. 18 Facebook post on the organization's page, Hotze said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott should be "tarred and feathered" for coronavirus lockdown measures in the state.
He went on to say that he had raised more than $600,000 over a three-week period leading up to Nov. 1 "to hire private investigators and attorneys to discover, expose and disrupt the Democrats' massive election fraud scheme in Harris County."
That fundraising push, Hotze said, "prevented the Democrats from carrying out their massive election fraud scheme in Harris County, and prevented them from carrying Texas for Biden. Our efforts saved Texas."
The Texas Tribune says Hotze was also among a group of Republicans who unsuccessfully sued to have nearly 127,000 Harris County ballots tossed out this year and to stop the governor from extending early voting during the pandemic.
Aguirre and two other unidentified companions with the Liberty Center watched the victim for four days prior to the Oct. 19 attack, according to police records. They were convinced that there were 750,000 fraudulent ballots in the man's vehicle and home.
Aguirre said the victim was using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because children's fingerprints wouldn't appear on any database, according to the affidavit. He also claimed Facebook's founder gave $9.37 billion for "ballot harvesting."
Three days before the attack, Aguirre contacted law enforcement with his allegations of the alleged fraud. He called Lt. Wayne Rubio in the Texas Office of the Attorney General for a traffic stop to help in his investigation — a request Rubio denied. Concerned with Aguirre's claims that he would "handle" the situation himself, Rubio contacted police.
Aguirre was also rebuffed when he contacted the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Prosecutors say Aguirre decided to take matters into his own hands.
Aguirre and at least two other companions set up a "command post" at a Marriott hotel in Pearland, where they planned their attack, Aguirre told police. He has refused to identify his co-conspirators, claiming he doesn't know who they are, according to the affidavit.
The victim was driving his box truck during the early morning hours of Oct. 19, when he noticed a black SUV pull into his lane, almost hitting him. A few seconds later, the driver of the SUV later identified as Aguirre, allegedly slammed into the back of the man's vehicle. When the victim pulled over and got out to check on Aguirre, the former police officer allegedly pointed a gun at the victim and demanded he get on the ground.
While Aguirre had his knee into the man's back, according to the affidavit, he ordered two other people arrived on the scene to search the victim's truck.
One of them then drove the truck as Aguirre kept the man pinned to the ground. The truck was found abandoned a few blocks away about 30 minutes after the incident. When police searched the victim's truck, only air-conditioner parts and tools were found. No ballots were discovered in the truck or in the man's home.
Aguirre was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.