Top Stories

Suspect in Doctor’s Death Killed Himself, Arkema Indicted over Chemical Releases During Hurricane Harvey, And More

What we’re following at Houston Public Media today

Friday, July 3, 2018

Top afternoon stories:

Suspect in murder of cardiologist’s death killed himself

Joseph James Pappas, 62, the suspect in the fatal shooting of Dr. Mark Hausknecht, killed himself on Friday morning during an encounter with two police officers in southwest Houston.

Police Chief Art Acevedo said during a press conference that the Houston Police Department had received a call about Pappas’ location.

Acevedo detailed Pappas was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Arkema indicted over chemical releases during Hurricane Harvey

The North American subsidiary of a French chemical manufacturer and two senior staff members have been indicted in connection with last year’s explosion at the Crosby, Texas, plant in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Arkema North America, its CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle were charged in Friday’s Harris County indictment with “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air. The charge carries up to $1 million in fines and five years’ imprisonment.

After Arkema’s plant lost power, its organic peroxides began heating and decomposing. The compounds, used in products including plastics to paints, caught fire and partially exploded, sending plumes of smoke skyward.

First responders and neighbors said they were sickened after the incident.

Arkema spokeswoman Janet Smith on Friday said the corporation would fight the indictment.

NASA announces astronaut crews for first missions on new commercial spacecraft

Houston’s Johnson Space Center was the place NASA chose Friday to introduce to the world the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. The new endeavor will return astronaut launches to United States soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011.

“Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

Ted Cruz releases first TV ads of 2018, including 2 attacking Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso (left), and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has started airing the first TV ads of his re-election campaign, including one that highlights his work on the state’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey and another that takes aim at his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

The Harvey-themed commercial is airing in Beaumont, while the O’Rourke attack ad is on the air in Lubbock. In a news release, Cruz’s campaign highlighted only the Harvey spot, and it did not provide any information about how much it was spending on the ads.

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Top morning stories:

Exiting HISD administrators speak of  fear, ‘nasty politics,’ and retaliation 

The state's conservator, Doris Delaney, interviewed half of the principals and administrators who've left HISD since January.
The state’s conservator, Doris Delaney, interviewed half of the principals and administrators who’ve left HISD since January.

This past spring, a slew of top administrators decided to leave or retire from the Houston Independent School District, including the chief of staff and deputy superintendent. News 88.7 obtained exit interviews with about a dozen of those former employees, who cited a lack of trust, concern about the district’s future and instability and negativity from the school board.

For asylum seekers in Houston, chances can be slim

Salvadoran migrants Allison Ximena and her mother Cindy Madrid reunify in Houston. Their lawyer says they will seek asylum in the U.S.

In Houston, one federal immigration court judge denied as many as 97 percent of asylum cases she heard between 2012 and 2017. The average asylum denial rate in Houston was 87 percent. Those numbers look a lot different in other parts of the United States. Why?

False alarm at the home of murder suspect

HPD has identified the suspect in the murder of Dr. Mark Hausknecht as Joseph James Pappas. Chief Art Acevedo said during a news briefing that Pappas’ mother had been a patient of Hausknecht’s about 20 years ago and died during a surgery he was performing.

Authorities are still searching for the suspect in the murder of a prominent Houston cardiologist. Police say a neighbor called authorities to report a possible sighting of the suspect, 62-year-old Joseph Pappas, but when SWAT officers and local law enforcement responded late Thursday night, it turned out to be a false alarm. 

Pappas is described was described by a neighbor as a nice, quiet man who kept to himself and had few close friends.

Pappas, who authorities described as armed, dangerous and possibly suicidal, is accused of killing Dr. Mark Hausknecht last month as he rode his bicycle to work in the Texas Medical Center.

EPA to investigate response to Harvey air quality concerns

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog office is reviewing whether federal and state officials kept the public appropriately informed last year about potential air quality threats after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

The EPA’s inspector general’s office says an audit will scrutinize the agency’s response after several high-profile accidents and spills following the storm, including explosions and fire at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby.

The inspector general plans to examine whether officials from the EPA and state agencies properly addressed potential high-risk areas and whether air quality monitoring indicated any potential health concerns.

Also under review is whether those air monitoring results and any associated health concerns were “accurately communicated to the public.”

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