Charlotte-based American Airlines pilot killed in Puerto Rico during layover

Charlotte-based American Airlines pilot killed in Puerto Rico

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An American Airlines pilot from Concord was killed after apparently getting caught in the crossfire during a shooting in San Juan during a layover, Puerto Rico officials said.

Matthew Stapula died Sunday morning and the airline said it mobilized teams to help family members, who said Stapula was a man who loved his family dearly. He had just switched his home base to Charlotte so he could be closer to them.

“He was the most caring and giving person, and he would help anyone,” his wife, Michelle Stapula, told Channel 9. “It didn’t matter who it was.”

Content Continues Below

The two had only been married for a year.

"He was my soulmate,” Michelle Stapula said. “He was my partner, and this wasn't supposed to happen like this.”


Michelle Stapula said the trip to Puerto Rico was her husband’s first trip from his new home base in Charlotte.

"He was based in Miami, so he was really excited to be based at home,” his wife said. "He was very excited to be able to spend more time at home."

Police in San Juan said Matthew Stapula was outside a nightclub smoking a cigarette. There was a dispute, someone started shooting and Stapula was caught in the crossfire.

“The person who is outside smoking, in the exchange of shots -- they cause him injuries,” said Juan Garcia, of the Puerto Rico police. “He is mortally wounded and dies.”

Police said two other people were shot that night, and one of them died.

"He didn't text me that morning, and I called and called and texted,” Michelle Stapula said.

No arrests have been made and she said it’s been difficult to get information.

"I hope they can find who did this,” she said. “It was senseless.”

In the meantime, Michelle Stapula said she is holding on to the last words he wrote to her.

“He said, ‘Love you and see you soon,’” she said. “I know he loved me very much.”

Family members said American Airlines has been very helpful through the tragedy.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleague’s family, friends and loved ones,” American Airlines said in a statement to Channel 9. “We have mobilized teams to provide care to his family, as well as fellow team members during this difficult time. Local law enforcement is investigating this incident, which occurred during the early morning hours of Feb. 2. We are providing any investigative assistance possible.”

American Airlines flight out of Charlotte forced to turn back after odor fills cabin

Read more top trending stories on