US detective confirms British scientist, 31, shot in the head in Atlanta was ...

US detective confirms British scientist, 31, shot in the head in Atlanta was ...
US detective confirms British scientist, 31, shot in the head in Atlanta was ...

US detectives have confirmed a young British scientist who was shot in the head while visiting his California-born girlfriend was hit by a stray bullet fired less than 300ft away.

Dr Matthew Willson, 31, was killed by a shot fired less than 100 yards away early on Sunday morning — moments after being woken by the sound of ‘rapid gunfire’ as he slept alongside his 26-year-old partner Katherine Shephard in Atlanta, Georgia.

The astrophysicist, from leafy Chertsey in Surrey, had arrived in America to stay with Miss Shephard just two days before he died in an apartment block in Clairmont Road, Buford Highway.

US detectives are investigating as a homicide, but detectives said Dr Willson was not a target. Sergeant Jake Kissel from the Brookhaven Police Department said the fatal shooting appeared to be the result of ‘reckless discharge’ by random people.

Speaking to media, Sgt Kissel said no arrests have been made so far, adding: ‘Our investigation team is treating it as a homicide, even though we believe that it was a random act and complete reckless discharging of firearms, we’re still approaching it as a homicide.

‘I think that’s the best way for us to approach it because that’s what we’re used to and we’re capable of tracking down and viewing the evidence and making sure that we’re getting all of those steps and the puzzle pieces put back together, so we are approaching it as a homicide until the evidence dictates something different.’

Sgt Kissel said the stray bullet that hit Dr Willson travelled less than 300ft and entered through an exterior wall of the apartment. 

Devoted: This is the last picture taken of Matthew Willson with his girlfriend Katherine Shepard after he flew to America to see her. The 31-year-old was hit in the head by a shot fired from around 780ft away – moments after being woken by the sound of 'rapid gunfire' as he slept alongside Miss Shepard

Devoted: This is the last picture taken of Matthew Willson with his girlfriend Katherine Shepard after he flew to America to see her. The 31-year-old was hit in the head by a shot fired from around 780ft away – moments after being woken by the sound of 'rapid gunfire' as he slept alongside Miss Shepard

Devastated Miss Shepard told the Daily Mail of the moment she realised he had been hit after hearing up to 50 shots outside the building. 'I was kneeling on my bed looking out of the window to see if I could see anything. I felt the bed move – Matt was possibly getting up – and there was a tiny explosion in our room,' she said. (Above, the apartment block where the couple were sleeping)

Devastated Miss Shepard told the Daily Mail of the moment she realised he had been hit after hearing up to 50 shots outside the building. 'I was kneeling on my bed looking out of the window to see if I could see anything. I felt the bed move – Matt was possibly getting up – and there was a tiny explosion in our room,' she said. (Above, the apartment block where the couple were sleeping)

‘The two apartment complexes where the gunfire took place and where Matthew was staying, they’re separated by a patch of woods, so they back up to each other,’ the officer said.

‘We're saying it’s the reckless discharge of firearms from one apartment complex and the stray bullet travelled through the woods and entered his apartment. We are following up on all leads that we're receiving. We're receiving tips from the public and our investigator team has been working around the clock to ensure that we're tracking down the individuals that are responsible.’

Talking about the incident, the officer added: ‘It's the first of its kind in my knowledge to the city of Brookhaven where an innocent bystander is struck and killed by a stray bullet.

‘For me and my 15-year law enforcement career, this is the first time that I've ever dealt with this type of situation. It's definitely something that's alarming. It's a tragic event. It's very shocking to hear and try and piece together how it actually happened. It's something that's been... it's a very tall task.’

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