The suspect in the killing of a prominent Houston doctor is dead, police say. Houston police announced Friday that Joseph Pappas, their prime suspect in the murder of Mark Hausknecht, had killed himself after an encounter with police in southwest Houston.
Police had been involved in an intense manhunt since Wednesday for Pappas, who they called armed, extremely dangerous and possibly suicidal, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Pappas committed suicide when he was confronted by two members of the Houston Police Department who were responding to a tip, Acevedo said.
A parks board employee called police around 9:30 Friday morning, saying he had spotted a person he believed to be Pappas sitting in an area he usually checks for graffiti vandals, Acevedo said. Pappas walked away with his arms raised, and the parks employee found a wallet he used to identify Pappas.
An officer responded and approached Pappas, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest and holding a revolver in his right hand that he was concealing. Acevedo said Pappas refused the officer's orders to show his right hand. As a second officer approached, Pappas fatally shot himself in the head, Acevedo said.
Acevedo said it's possible Pappas may have been intending to open fire on the first officer before the second officer approached.
"You don't put on a bullet-proof vest to commit suicide," Acevedo said. "You're not thinking about suicide, you're thinking about survival."
Acevedo said he felt "joy" that no one else was hurt, including the officers and the parks employee who called police.
A family friend of Pappas told the News-Herald that Pappas had told her of plans to kill himself. She said she received a notification in the mail July 23 that Pappas had deeded his Westbury home to her.
The friend, Jeanette Spencer, said Pappas told her the next day over the phone that he deeded the house to her because he had a terminal illness. But on July 30, Pappas texted her and told her that he was committing suicide and gave her detailed instructions to secure the house, the paper reports.
"Sorry for handling things this way," the text reportedly said. "House and property is now yours."
Spencer said she tried to contact Pappas, and when his phone went to voicemail, she called police.
Hausknecht operated on Pappas' mother, who died during surgery, more than 20 years ago, police have said, citing revenge as a possible motive. Acevedo said Pappas had an "extensive" intelligence file on Hausknecht, including information on his home, workplace and vehicles.
Acevedo said the file included a page that had Hausknecht's name along with the names of other employees at the medical center. Acevedo couldn't say whether it could be characterized as a "hit list," but said the employees were notified.
The Houston Chronicle reports investigators also found a "last will and testament" and boxes of ammunition in the home.
Hausknecht was shot three times -- twice in the torso and once in the head -- while riding his bike to work last month in the Texas Medical Center. Police said Pappas, who was also on a bike, followed the doctor then passed him, then turned back and fired.
Acevedo thanked the community, the media and the tipster for alerting the police to the "dangerous" fugitive.
"This doesn't bring anybody back, but it does bring closure to this community and the Hausknecht family," Acevedo said.
Pappas had worked from 1983 through 1995 as a peace officer with two Houston-area constable offices. He also worked from 1995 through 2013 as a reserve officer for these same constable offices, according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Friends and family have described Hausknecht as a humble and generous man who was adored by his patients, volunteered in his community and cared about the environment.
Hausknecht was also an avid cyclist and rode his bike to work each morning, as he lived less than two miles from his office.
In 2000, Hausknecht treated former president George H.W. Bush for an irregular heartbeat after the ex-president complained about lightheadedness.
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