Doctor Matthew Willson killed by stray bullet in Atlanta while asleep next to his girlfriend
A British doctor visiting the US has been killed in his sleep by a stray bullet fired ‘recklessly’ from a neighbouring apartment complex while asleep with his girlfriend in bed.
Matthew Willson, 31, from Surrey, was staying in an upmarket suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, having flown to America last week to visit his California-born partner Kate Shepard, a physicist.
The postdoctoral scientific researcher, from leafy Chertsey, had only been in the US for two days when he died in the freak incident, which is still being treated as homicide.
Police said they were called at 2am on Sunday to reports of the ‘reckless discharge of a firearm’ in an apartment block on Buford Highway. As they attended the scene they got a 911 call from another block of flats, where Dr. Willson was staying, saying he had sustained a gunshot injury to the head. The Briton was taken to the local trauma centre but could not be saved.
Sergeant Jacob Kissel told WSB-TV: ‘This was a senseless act – this was an innocent victim. She and her boyfriend were laying in bed. He was here visiting from England. He was visiting a loved one. He had just flown in to the Atlanta area.
‘We lean on the public to understand that this is a tragic event, and we hope that they may come forward with any information they may have.’
Today his heartbroken sister Kate Easingwood, who is a molecular biology PhD student based in Sweden, posted a tribute to him on Instagram today, saying: ‘The world is so unfair.’ His heartbroken mother Pauline Willson declined to comment and said: ‘We just need some peace.’
Detectives in the US believe the gun was fired ‘recklessly’ from a nearby apartment block and do not believe Dr. Willson was the target. Detectives are however investigating the incident as a homicide but have not made any arrests, with a cash reward now on offer.
A police spokesman said: ‘This incident appears to be a random act involving individuals participating in the reckless discharge of firearm(s) which led to the tragic death of Dr. Willson. Dr. Willson was in town from England visiting loved ones his when the incident occurred’.
Dr Willson had worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia State University for two years, having also worked at the University of Liege in Belgium.
Multiple people phoned 911 in the early hours of Sunday morning at about 2am after hearing gunshots in the 3600 apartment complex on Buford Highway in Brookhaven.
After officers had arrived on the scene, another person called 911 to report that a man had been shot inside an apartment in the nearby 3100 block on Clairmont Road.
Officers moved to the 3100 block and found Dr. Willson with a gunshot wound to the head, according to Sergeant Jake Kissel of the Brookhaven Police Department.
Dr. Willson was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead. Police have not yet arrested anyone but said officers were investigating the death as a homicide.
Dr. Willson is understood to have been a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia State University and was previously a student at Exeter University in Devon.
Detectives believe the deadly shot was fired into the apartment from the neighbouring complex and described it as a ‘reckless discharge of firearm(s)’.
They also do not believe Dr Willson was an intended target of the shooter and are working on the premise that the fatal shot was a ‘random act’.
A Brookhaven Police Department spokesman said: ‘This incident appears to be a random act involving individuals participating in the reckless discharge of firearm(s) which led to the tragic death of Dr Willson.
‘Dr. Willson was in town from England visiting loved ones when the incident occurred.’
A UK Foreign Office spokesman said today: ‘We are supporting family of British man following his death in the USA, and are in contact with US authorities.’