US & World

Suspect In Houston Slaying Kills Himself As Police Close In

Joseph James Pappas, seen in an undated photograph provided by authorities.
Joseph James Pappas, seen in an undated photograph provided by authorities.
Texas Department of Public Safety/Houston Police Department via AP

The man suspected of shooting renowned cardiologist Mark Hausknecht, who treated a former U.S. president, died by his own hand Friday. Authorities say Joseph James Pappas, 62, killed himself when confronted by two Houston police officers at the end of a manhunt Friday morning.

"I thank God that that second officer got there when he got there, because the suspect was not complying with the commands of the [first] officer," Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said at a midday news conference. "I'm convinced that had that second officer not arrived, we might have had a shootout out here."

Instead, Pappas, who police say was clad in a bulletproof vest, turned his gun on himself.

The deadly conclusion caps a two-week search. On July 20, Hausknecht was gunned down in broad daylight as he bicycled to work at Houston Methodist Hospital. The killer cycled closely behind. For weeks, the crime simmered unsolved, drawing national headlines for Hausknecht's most famous former patient, George H.W. Bush, and for the mysterious nature of the killing.

Noise from a nearby construction site disguised the sounds of the gunshots, and law enforcement struggled to find anyone in Hausknecht's life who may have wanted him dead. Authorities could identify neither the killer nor his motive — until Houston police pleas for help from the community finally yielded a crucial lead: home surveillance footage that appeared to show the gunman.

Earlier this week, with the help of that footage, police named the suspect as Pappas, whose mother died some two decades ago on Hausknecht's operating table.

"It appears that this may be a 20-year-old grudge that this man held," Acevedo announced two days ago, adding that "there was a lot of planning that went into this."

A tip from a Houston Parks Board employee Friday morning eventually led law enforcement to an outdoor area in southwest Houston, where Pappas was waiting with a weapon. When confronted, Acevedo said, Pappas ended his life with a single bullet.

"It's a sad day all the way around," the police chief told reporters Friday. "It doesn't bring anybody back, but it does bring closure."

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