A Texas manhunt for a retired cop who killed the former doctor of ex-president George H.W. Bush in broad daylight ended on Friday with the suicide of the suspect.
Heart surgeon Mark Hausknecht was murdered in a brazen shooting two weeks ago, in what police believe was the result of a more than 20-year grudge held by Joseph James Pappas.
The 65-year-old cardiologist at Houston’s Methodist Hospital treated former president Bush in 2000. He also treated Pappas’s mother more than two decades ago. She died while in the doctor’s care.
That is the only connection between the two men that might explain why Pappas methodically planned the killing and then went on the run, according to police.
He was confronted by two officers Friday morning and committed suicide, Houston’s police chief said.
Based on surveillance images, police believe Pappas was on a bicycle just behind Hausknecht on July 20, as the doctor was bicycling to work. The former cop then allegedly passed the doctor on the road, turned and fired two shots.
The killing — which investigators early on suspected was targeted — rocked Houston’s sizeable medical community. Hausknecht worked on the campus of the Texas Medical Center, a sprawling complex that encompasses multiple hospitals.
Suspect had ‘extensive intelligence file’
Tips helped police identify Pappas as a suspect. When they searched his home Tuesday night, investigators found evidence that he had methodically targeted the slain doctor.
“They found a very extensive intelligence file that this suspect had put together on Doctor Hausknecht,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told a news conference.
On Wednesday night, police publicly identified the ex-cop as their chief suspect and asked for the public’s help to capture him. They believed he was armed and dangerous, but would remain within the city limits because he was traveling by bicycle.
An eyewitness tip Friday morning led police to Pappas at a grassy area not far from his home. Pappas killed himself as officers closed in.
“The potential threat to the city from an accused murderer considered armed and dangerous is now over, closing another chapter of this horrific tragedy,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement.
Acevedo said Pappas was armed with a handgun and wearing a bullet-proof vest when an officer approached him. He was not complying with the commands of the first responding officer and killed himself once a second officer arrived, the chief said.
“Suspect Pappas took a gun, shot himself in the head,” Acevedo said.
The chief expressed relief at the outcome, pointing out that Pappas had displayed marksman-like skill in the killing. He had been in Texas law enforcement for 30 years, until retiring in 2013, according to NBC News.
‘Might have had a shootout’
“I’m thankful that we’re going to end this week with a great sense of relief in the city of Houston,” Acevedo said.
“We might have had a shootout.”
Houston Methodist Hospital would not comment on Pappas’s death, but had earlier expressed “shock” over the killing of one of their own.
“The Houston Methodist family is still in shock,” the hospital’s CEO Marc Boom said Wednesday. “We continue to support (Hausknecht’s) family and pray for them during this difficult time.”
The elder George Bush — 41st US president, and father to the 43rd president George W Bush — had released a statement after the murder calling Hausknecht “a fantastic cardiologist and a good man.”
“I will always be grateful for his exceptional, compassionate care. His family is in our prayers,” Bush said, according to US media.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)