Mark Aquirre is a former Houston, Texas, police captain accused of holding an innocent air conditioner repairman at gunpoint after running him off the road in a failed attempt to prove unverified voter fraud claims.
“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 in a news release. “His alleged investigation was backward from the start – first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened.”
The 63-year-old Mark Anthony Aguirre is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. At the time he was on the Houston force (his career ended in controversy), Aguirre was the department’s highest-ranking Hispanic officer, according to Houston Press.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Aguirre, a Private Investigator Now, Targeted an Innocent Air Conditioner Repairman, Police Say
According to a court document describing probable cause for the charge, Aguirre “told police shortly after the Oct. 19 incident, that he was part of a group of private citizens called, ‘Liberty Center,’ who were conducting a civilian investigation into the alleged ballot scheme,” the DA’s release says.
According to Aguirre, “he had been conducting surveillance on the victim for four days under a theory the victim was the mastermind of a giant fraud, and there were 750,000 fraudulent ballots in a truck he was driving. Instead, the victim turned out to be an innocent and ordinary air conditioner repairman.”
On LinkedIn, Aguirre lists two jobs: He says he has worked for three years at Aguirre Estate Liquidation, LLC.
“I now purchase and liquidate estates. WE BUY EVERYTHING! Our goal is to eliminate the hassle the bereaved may have in determining the worth of their dearly departed’s assets and property. We cut checks within 24 hours after thoroughly appraising the value of any and all items of worth and coming to an agreement with the principals involved,” he wrote.
For 18 years, he’s owned and managed Mark A. Aguirre Investigations, a private investigative agency. “Owner and manager of Mark A. Aguirre Investigations, after retiring as Captain of the Houston Police Department,” Aguirre explained on LinkedIn.
2. Aguirre Is Accused of Running His SUV Into the Back of the Technician’s Truck
The DA’s release describes a frightening scene.
Aguirre “ran his SUV into the back of the truck to get the technician to stop and get out, according to the document. When the technician got out of the truck, Aguirre, pointed a handgun at the technician, forced him to the ground and put his knee on the man’s back – an image captured on the body-worn camera of a police officer,” the release alleges.
The release further alleges that Aguirre “directed police to a parking lot nearby where another suspect, who has not been identified, took the truck. There were no ballots in the truck. It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools.”
“Former Houston Police Capt. Mark Anthony Aguirre, who went to authorities with pre-election claims that a massive voter fraud scheme was underway in Harris County, was instead arrested himself Tuesday and charged for running a man off the road and pointing at gun at his head in an attempt to prove his claims,” the DA’s press release says.
3. Aguirre Received More Than $266,000 in the Caper, According to the DA
Aguirre “never told police that he had been paid a total of $266,400 by the Houston-based Liberty Center for God and Country, with $211,400 of that amount being deposited into his account the day after the incident,” the district attorney says.
The case was investigated by the Houston Police and is being prosecuted by the Public Corruption Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
“Aguirre’s claims of election fraud were found to be baseless after thorough investigation by Houston Police and by the Office Constable Precinct 1 Alan Rosen, as part of the Harris County Election Security Task Force,” says the release.
A now deleted GoFundMe account was headlined, “Help stop illegal ballot harvesting. Our team is spearheaded by Mark A. Aguirre retired Captain of the Houston Police Department…”
4. A Conservative Activist & Former Republican Party Chairman Helped Fund the Voter Fraud Investigation, Reports Say
The Houston Chronicle reported that police found only air conditioning parts and tools in the truck that Aguirre told them would contain hundreds of thousands of ballots.
The voter fraud investigation was “funded through an organization run by conservative activist Steven Hotze and former Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill,” the newspaper reported.
It notes that an Aguirre affidavit was used in Republican lawsuits challenging Texas election plans. In the affidavit, Aguirre writes, “I am currently involved in an investigation related to a wide-ranging and fraudulent ballot harvesting scheme in Harris County intended to rig the elections in the Houston/Harris County area. This scheme involves voter fraud on a massive scale.”
Aguirre claimed the voter fraud team had a “command post” at a Pearland Marriot hotel and told police, “I just hope you’re a patriot.”
He had called the Attorney General’s office previously to ask whether police would stop the repairman but was told no.
According to the Texas Tribune, Hotze and other Republicans filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to have Harris County ballots tossed out. He also tried to get the governor to stop extended early voting. That’s the case that Aguirre provided an affidavit for, alleging a “wide-ranging and fraudulent ballot harvesting scheme” in Harris County, the newspaper reported.
Woodfill told the Texas Tribune that the Liberty Center hired Aguirre’s company to investigate voter fraud. Some 20 private investigators were involved.
5. Aguirre Was Previously Fired by the Police Department After a Botched Raid
A 2004 story in The Houston Chronicle reported that Aguirre was fired for his handling of Operation ERACER, which the newspaper described as a “controversial raid at a west Houston Kmart parking lot that became a legal fiasco for the city.”
In “emotional and sometimes angry testimony,” Aguirre claimed he was “wrongfully fired” and betrayed by co-workers, the story reports.
“Sir, you can’t put me back together — I know that,” he told a hearing examiner, according to the Chronicle. “You have no idea what’s happened to me, how I was betrayed by my co-workers and my Police Department. … They destroyed me financially. They destroyed me reputation wise. You can’t give me my reputation back. But I want that back pay, at the very least. … I want my job back, and I want to be given some measure of dignity.”
According to the story, the raid was a “crack down on racing enthusiasts and spectators clogging west Houston parking lots.” A massive number of trespassing and curfew violations unrelated to racing provoked complaints and lawsuits, the newspaper reports.
As one lawsuit says in the Operation ERACER case, “Plaintiff’s arrest was allegedly made pursuant to an HPD initiative dubbed ‘Operation ERACER,’ mass arrests of approximately 425 people on August 16, 17, and 18, 2002, intended to target illegal street racing. Ultimately, all charges against Plaintiff and other arrestees were summarily dismissed as wrongful arrests.”
A 2002 article in Houston Press says, “Houston police Captain Mark Aguirre was angry. He’d become commander of the city’s South Central Station operations and led a major effort that had gained citywide attention for reducing crime. But the momentum was beginning to stall, and Aguirre felt mounting resistance from his own front-line supervisors on his calls to step up police activity.”
The news site reports that Aguirre was once the subject of an anonymous complaint that accused him of “punctuating the profanity with what some of the cops said they perceived as threats.”