Suspect identified in murder of George H.W. Bush's former doctor

Houston Police announced Wednesday that they had identified a suspect in the murder of a prominent cardiologist who once treated former President George H.W. Bush.

Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that an arrest warrant had been issued for 65-year-old Joseph James Pappas, who investigators believe shot and killed Dr. Mark Hausknecht as he rode his bicycle to work on the morning of July 20.

“We need to find this guy,” Acevedo said of Pappas, who he described as armed, dangerous and possibly suicidal. “If he’s committed suicide, we need the body. If he’s alive, we need to find him.”

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2000, file photo, former President George H.W. Bush waves as he leaves Methodist Hospital with his cardiologist, Mark Hausknecht, after a news conference in Houston. Hausknecht, who once treated former President George H.W. Bush, was fatally shot by a fellow bicyclist Friday, July 20, 2018, while riding through a Houston medical complex, and police were trying to determine if the shooting was random or a targeted act. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Dr. Mark Hausknecht and former President George H.W. Bush in 2000.  (Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Investigators believe that Pappas held a grudge against Hausknecht after his mother died while he was operating on her more than two decades earlier. Acevedo said that officers had searched Pappas’ home Tuesday night and obtained additional evidence tying him to the murder.

“We believe that this absolutely is the killer,” Acevedo said.

Acevedo said the department received tips identifying Pappas as the gunman after authorities released new surveillance video Monday of the suspect riding his own bicycle through a neighborhood moments after the shooting. The footage showed a man wearing a ball cap, a short-sleeved polo shirt and khaki shorts.

Investigators say the shooter passed Dr. Hausknecht from behind and rode at least a block ahead before turning around and firing three shots at his victim.

“There was a lot of planning that went into this,” Acevedo said of the murder. “There was a lot of planning and, sadly, some skill … The shots that he took, took some skill.”

The chief told local residents to be on the lookout for a Schwinn ten-speed bicycle that he says Pappas rode “extensively and almost exclusively.”

In 2000, Hausknecht treated Bush for an irregular heartbeat after the 41st president complained about lightheadedness. After Hausknecht’s death, Bush called Hausknecht “a fantastic cardiologist and a good man.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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