Who was Dr. Matthew Willson? Former PhD student killed by stray bullet shot through apartment wall

The late astrophysicist Dr. Matthew Willson with his girlfriend (Image via Brookhaven Police)
The late astrophysicist Dr. Matthew Willson with his girlfriend (Image via Brookhaven Police)

On January 16, British astrophysicist Dr. Matthew Willson was shot dead by a stray bullet that hit him in the head. The scientist was with his US-resident girlfriend at their apartment in Brookhaven, Georgia when a bullet penetrated the wall and struck him.

Brookhaven Police Department Sergeant Jake Kissel told ITV:

“This incident appears to be a random act involving individuals participating in the reckless discharge of firearm(s) which led to the tragic death…”
ENGLISH DR KILLED: @BrookhavenGA_PD says 31 yr old Dr. Matthew Wilson likely hit by stray bullet while in bed. Victim was visiting loved ones from Surrey, England. PD thinks reckless gunfire from nearby apt complex is to blame.@GoodDayAtlanta

The shooting reportedly awakened the couple before Willson was shot. Around 2:00 am ET, Brookhaven police reportedly received multiple calls for gunshots near a block of apartments near Willson and his girlfriend’s residence.

What is known about Dr. Matthew Willson?


Willson had come to Atlanta, Georgia to visit his long-distance girlfriend of three years, Katherine Shepard. The astrophysicist passed away from the “reckless shooting” within two days of his arrival in the country. As per Shepard, he had planned to be in the U.S. for three months.

The 31-year-old astrophysicist scholar was from Chertsey, Surrey, in the UK. Matthew Willson formerly attended the University of Exeter for his research work in the field and received his doctorate from the British public research institution.

According to ITV, a spokesperson for the university said:

“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…”

How did Dr. Matthew Willson get shot?


According to local law enforcement authorities, the bullet was initially shot near a building complex near the 3600 block of Brookhaven. The stray bullet reportedly traveled through the woods which separated the two building complexes, and went through the wall of Willson and Shepard’s residence, striking him “accidentally.” It covered a distance over 90 meters before killing the astrophysicist.

As per Katherine Shephard’s account, she rushed to call the police, who were already on their way after receiving prior complaints about the shooting. She reportedly held him for over 20 minutes before he was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died from head trauma. Shephard also recalled that while waiting for the ambulance, the shooting continued.

The investigation into the shooting is currently underway, and the tragedy is reportedly being treated as a homicide. However, no perpetrator has been identified yet, nor has anyone been arrested.

Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
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