Matthew Willson: ‘Reckless discharge’ led to British academic in US being shot dead while laying in bed

The stray bullet that hit Dr Matthew Willson travelled less than 100 yards and entered through an exterior wall of the apartment

Dr Matthew Willson and his partner Katherine Shepard (image: family handout)Dr Matthew Willson and his partner Katherine Shepard (image: family handout)
Dr Matthew Willson and his partner Katherine Shepard (image: family handout)

Police in the US have said the fatal shooting of an English astrophysicist in his bed appeared to be the result of “reckless discharge”.

Dr Matthew Willson, 31, was found dead at 2am local time on 16 January after being shot in an apartment block in Clairmont Road, Buford Highway, Georgia.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Dr Willson was in town from England visiting loved ones when he lost his life.
  • Sgt Jake Kissel from the Brookhaven Police Department said Dr Wilson’s death is being treated as a homicide even though they believe it was a random act - and no arrests have been made so far.
  • Police had been called out to the area over reports of gunshots when they received another call that a person had been shot.
  • Sgt Kissel, from Brookhaven Police, said officers assisted “with rendering aid until paramedics arrived on scene” before he was taken to a local trauma center where he succumbed to his injuries.

  • The Foreign Office confirmed to the PA news agency that it was supporting the family of a British man following his death in the US.

What’s been said

Tributes have been paid to Dr Willson from his alma mater, the University of Exeter.

A spokesperson for the university said in a statement: “Matthew Willson was a former PhD student at the University of Exeter and much-loved member of our astrophysics team.

“We have been informed about his tragic death in the US and our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues. We are offering support to colleagues at the University who will also want to commemorate his life.”

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