Ex-Cop Held Man at Gunpoint to Search for Fraudulent Ballots That Didn't Exist, Prosecutors Say

Former Houston police captain Mark Anthony Aguirre was arrested on Tuesday after voter fraud fantasies allegedly pushed him to real-world violence.
An image from the transportation industry of a truck driver being held up at gunpoint.
An image from the transportation industry of a truck driver being held up at gunpoint. (shotbydave/Getty Images)

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A former Houston police captain ran an air-conditioner repair man off the road and held him at gunpoint after becoming convinced the man had masterminded a giant voter fraud scheme and was hiding 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck, Texas prosecutors say. 

Wild fantasies about voter fraud allegedly led ex-top cop Mark Anthony Aguirre, 63, to want to conduct “surveillance” on the man, who was not named, the prosecutors say. Aguirre was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in relation to the incident, which took place in October, a few weeks before the election, according to a statement by Harris County District Attorney’s Office. 

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On October 19, Aguirre tailed the repairman in his SUV and rammed his vehicle into the back of his truck, prosecutors say. When the repairman got out, Aguirre allegedly pointed a handgun at him and “forced him to the ground and put his knee on the man’s back.” Prosecutors say that the repairman’s truck was full of tools and spare parts, not fraudulent ballots. 

Aguirre later claimed to police that he was part of a civilian-led “investigation” into voter fraud allegations. In the months running up to the election, President Donald Trump and his allies repeatedly spread unfounded claims about massive voter fraud, particularly related to mail-in ballots. At a September presidential debate, Trump claimed, without evidence, that votes for him had been discovered in creeks and rivers

The bizarre details in Aguirre’s case serve as a reminder of how conspiracy theories and disinformation can spur believers to real-world action—sometimes with violent, even deadly consequences. 

“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 statement. “His alleged investigation was backward from the start—first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened.”

Aguirre is no stranger to controversy. He was fired from his position as captain in 2004 for his alleged role masterminding a huge sweep in a Kmart parking lot as part of an attempt to crack down on “illegal street racing.” The sweep led to 278 arrests, most for crimes entirely unrelated to street racing, and a slew of lawsuits. Years later, a federal judge called the operation “almost totalitarian,” according to the Houston Chronicle