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Ex-Houston cop hired by GOP megadonor arrested for aggravated assault while hunting fake ballots

Police in Houston arrested a former Houston Police captain on Tuesday, charging him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly running an appliance repair truck off the road and holding its driver at gunpoint in a failed bid to find fake ballots. The former cop, Mark Aguirre, had been hired by the Liberty Center for God and Country, a conservative group led by Republican megadonor Steven Hotze, to find evidence of the widespread voter fraud conservatives baselessly believed was being carried out in Harris County, The Texas Tribune reports.

"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." The assault charges carry up to 20 years in jail

Aguirre told authorities he had been tailing the air conditioner repair technician for four days, aided by two other people, before forcing him off the road Oct. 19. He said he believed the technician was behind a huge voter fraud scheme and was carrying some of the 750,000 fake ballots Aguirre believed were in his possession. "There were no ballots in the truck," the Harris County district attorney's office said. "It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools." One of the people accompanying Aguirre allegedly stole the technician's van after Aguirre forced him to the ground at gunpoint, abandoning the vehicle a few blocks away.

A lawyer for Hotze told the Tribune that the Liberty Center had hired a company led by Aguirre to investigate voter fraud ahead of the election, but said Hotze "did not direct or lead any of the investigations." The Houston Police Department fired Aguirre in 2003 after a controversial raid at a Kmart parking lot, the Houston Chronicle reports. CNN's John Avlon compared Aguirre's actions to the "Pizzagate" debacle.

Hotze was one of the Texas Republicans who unsuccessfully sued to stop Gov. Greg Abbott (R) from extending early voting this year and tried to get 127,000 Harris County ballots thrown out. Earlier this year, the Tribune reports, he called Abbott's chief of staff and urged the governor to shoot and kill people protesting the police killing of George Floyd.