Alumnus Dr. Mark J. Hausknecht ’75 was shot in Houston last month while biking to work.

August 11, 2018

Former Bush Doctor and Cornell Alumnus Fatally Shot in Houston; Suspect Dead of Suicide

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Alumnus Dr. Mark J. Hausknecht ’75, a prominent cardiologist and one-time physician to former President George H.W. Bush, was fatally shot last month while cycling to work.

During his time at Cornell, Hausknecht was a brother of the Sigma Pi fraternity. The fraternity released a condolence statement on July 28, condemning the killing as a “senseless act of gun violence.”

After completing his undergraduate degree at Cornell, Hausknecht received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and completed his residency and fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Hausknecht then went on to a prominent career in cardiology, including treating then-President George H.W. Bush for an irregular heartbeat in 2000, according to the Associated Press.

According to an early press conference given by the Houston Police Department in the wake of the shooting, Hausknecht was en route to work at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on the morning of July 20 when another cyclist approached, tailing him for several blocks.

Half a mile from the hospital, the second, masked cyclist passed the doctor before turning and shooting Hausknecht twice in the torso. Hausknecht was transported by ambulance to a local trauma hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police obtained footage of the suspect from area surveillance tapes captured by a passing bus, according to The Washington Post. An early composite sketch of the suspect was released based on tapes and witness accounts, with authorities urging the public to phone in with any information related to the incident.

Former President Bush released a statement on July 20 expressing his condolences as well.

“Mark was a fantastic cardiologist and a good man,” the statement, posted via Twitter, read. “I will always be grateful for his exceptional, compassionate care. His family is in our prayers.”

No motive was immediately apparent, but Houston Police said on Twitter on July 26 that there was a “high probability” that the doctor was the victim of a targeted attack.

On August 1, police issued an arrest warrant for a suspect, Joseph James Pappas, charging him with Hausknecht’s murder. The charge was announced via Houston Police’s Twitter, describing Pappas as “armed and dangerous.”

Police searched Pappas’s home on Aug. 2 after suspicious activity was reported in the area but did not find Pappas himself.

The manhunt continued into the morning of Aug. 3, according to a press conference given later that day by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, when Pappas was finally located.

Pappas committed suicide after being confronted by two police officers.

Hausknecht’s murder is believed to have been premeditated and planned with “skill,” Acevedo said at an early press conference. Pappas had assembled a “very extensive” bank of information on Hausknecht prior to the shooting, including information on the doctor’s residence, employer and vehicles, Acevedo said at the Aug. 3 press briefing.

Hausknecht had treated Pappas’s mother nearly twenty years before for a heart condition, according to The Washington Post, which Acevedo described as the “only connection” between the two men. Pappas’s mother died during an operation.

“After spending his adult life saving and prolonging the lives of others, my talented husband, Dr. Mark Hausknecht, had his life prematurely ended,” Hausknecht’s widow, Georgia R. Hsieh, wrote in a statement.

Hsieh called on the public to end the “senseless” deaths brought about by gun violence, stating that her family has now “joined the ranks of the tens of thousands of other grieving Americans who lose innocent loved ones each year.”