The man suspected of killing a prominent Houston doctor in broad daylight two weeks ago fatally shot himself in the head when he was confronted by two police officers on Friday morning, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
Joseph Pappas, wearing a bulletproof vest under his shirt, killed himself outdoors in a tree-lined residential area northwest of his Houston home, shortly after a city employee reported seeing Pappas and finding a wallet he’d left on the ground, Acevedo said.
Pappas wasn’t complying with the commands of the first officer who arrived, and the second officer’s arrival might have averted a shootout, Acevedo said.
“I’m very thankful that this suspect … committed suicide. You don’t normally put on a bulletproof vest” when you’re thinking of suicide, the police chief told reporters.
Pappas’ death ends a days-long manhunt for the 62-year-old real estate agent and former constable, who investigators say painstakingly planned the killing of Dr. Mark Hausknecht, possibly as revenge for his mother’s death 20 years ago under the doctor’s care.
Police said Pappas and Hausknecht were on their bicycles in Houston on July 20 – with Pappas following as Hausknecht pedaled to work – when the suspect rode past the physician, turned around and fatally shot him.
Authorities had been looking for Pappas since Tuesday, when a tipster told investigators Pappas appeared to be the cyclist in the surveillance video police released from the day of the shooting.
City parks worker found suspect, chief says
Police found Pappas after a parks board employee called authorities shortly before 9:30 a.m. CT Friday to say he’d seen the suspect – as well as a wallet with Pappas’ ID that he apparently had left on the ground. The witness said he was checking an area for graffiti when he encountered Pappas, and Pappas started walking away, Acevedo said.
“(The witness) actually yelled, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, I thought you were a graffiti vandal,'” and Pappas kept walking, the chief said. The witness said he then found Pappas’ wallet, recognized him as a suspect in the doctor’s killing, and called police.
Pappas may have been camping, police say
Authorities are looking into reports that Pappas may have been camping – possibly an attempt to hide out after police searched his home – because he had a backpack with him.
Hausknecht was a prominent surgeon and former cardiologist for President George H.W. Bush.