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Killing of George H.W. Bush’s doctor may have been an act of revenge, police say

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Joseph James Pappas, 62, is wanted by police in Houston.
(Texas Department of Public Safety)

A man suspected of killing one of former President George H.W. Bush’s doctors may have been seeking revenge for his mother, who died on the doctor’s operating table more than 20 years ago, authorities said Wednesday.

Joseph James Pappas, 62, should be considered armed, dangerous and possibly suicidal, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference.

“There was a lot of planning that went into this. There was a lot of planning and, sadly, some skill,” Acevedo said of the July 20 attack on Dr. Mark Hausknecht.

Hausknecht was gunned down while riding his bike to work at Houston Methodist Hospital, which is part of the busy Texas Medical Center. Authorities say the shooter rode past Hausknecht before turning around and firing.

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A tip on Tuesday led police to suspect Pappas, the chief said, though he didn’t elaborate as to the nature of the tip.

Acevedo said Pappas hadn’t been seen in 36 to 48 hours. He said the last anyone had heard from Pappas was in a Tuesday morning text message in which Pappas wrote that he was going to kill himself.

Acevedo said police searched his home at 4 a.m. Wednesday and found evidence that tied Pappas to the killing, but he declined to elaborate.

The chief said Pappas is white and very fit, and that he’s probably getting around on his 10-speed bicycle, which he rides “extensively and almost exclusively.”

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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.

In 2000, Hausknecht treated Bush for an irregular heartbeat after the ex-president complained about lightheadedness.


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