Former HPD Capt. Mark Anthony Aguirre charged with holding air conditioning man at gunpoint in fake voter-fraud conspiracy

Sunday, December 20, 2020
Former HPD Capt. Mark Anthony Aguirre charged with holding air conditioning man at gunpoint in fake voter-fraud conspiracy
The Harris County Democratic Party called a former Houston police captain's alleged anti-voter fraud crusade "far-fetched."

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- David Lopez Zuniga has repaired air conditioners for dozen years.

He lives in a mobile home in Houston's southside with his family, and doesn't know anything about elections.

However, Zuniga now finds himself in the middle of a bizarre election fraud case that's attracting national attention.

That's because on Tuesday, former Houston Police Department Captain Mark Aguirre was arrested and charged for running Zuniga off the road and pointing a gun at his head in an attempt to prove claims of a massive voter fraud scheme in Harris County.

"He tried helping him," said Zuniga's step-son Jonathan Reyes, while helping his father translate when ABC13 talked to the family on Wednesday. "Then (Aguirre) took out the gun on him. We didn't know this man. Don't even know if he was a cop or not. And we've never seen him before."

Aguirre, 63, was arrested by Houston police Tuesday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

"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."

According to court documents, Aguirre told police that he was part of a group of private citizens called the "Liberty Center," who were conducting a civilian investigation into the alleged ballot scheme.

Aguirre told he had been conducting surveillance for four days on Lopez because he thought the AC repairman was somehow mastermind of a giant voter fraud scheme. Aguirre told authorities the man was hiding 750,000 fraudulent ballots in a truck he was driving.

On Oct. 19, Aguirre allegedly ran his SUV into the back of the truck to get Zuniga to stop and get out.

When Zuniga got out of the truck, Aguirre pointed a handgun at him, forced him to the ground and put his knee on his back until police came, the court document said.

At the time of the alleged crime, Aguirre was working as a contract investigator for conservative activist Steven Hotze. Hotze has made a name for himself for alleging widespread voter fraud in Harris County, even when none has been found. This fall, Hotze used the "Liberty Center" funds to hire around 20 private investigators and other workers to investigate incidents of alleged fraud.

"We paid our investigators closer to $300,000" said Hotze during an hour long news conference on Wednesday. Hotze and his attorney, Jared Woodfill, spent most of the time rehashing their allegations of massive voter fraud.

When asked about Aguirre's alleged actions, Hotze said the criminal charges are trumped up.

"If they said he had a gun, why didn't they take his gun away? Something smells there. I don't know anybody who pulled a gun on anybody. That's the first (time) I ever heard that. Obviously, we wouldn't condone that. Nobody would," Hotze said.

When reached on the phone, Aguirre would not comment. However, his attorney did respond on Tuesday.

"I think it's a political prosecution. I really do," said Terry Yates, Aguirre's attorney. "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."

Aguirre allegedly 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.

On Wednesday, a day after Aguirre was arrested and charged, Lillie Schechter, the Harris County Democratic Party Chair, released a statement.

"It is shocking what people will do in their far-fetched attempts to invalidate the election. President Trump continues to support this type of baseless claim. He promotes voter fraud hoping to win back a lost election, motivating his most loyal supporters to try to manufacture evidence. Mr. Aguirre crossed the line in his attempt to support one of President Trump's conspiracy theories. These lies are damaging to our democracy and continue to divide our nation."

The case was investigated by HPD, 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 HPD and by the Harris County Precinct 1, as part of the Harris County Election Security Task Force.

He is currently in jail on a $30,000 bond.

Aguirre worked for HPD for 24 years and was indefinitely suspended after a botched raid outside a westside K-Mart in 2002.


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