Stray bullet kills sleeping UK astrophysicist Matthew Willson in Georgia

BROOKHAVEN, Ga. — A British astrophysicist visiting the United States was killed Jan. 16 by a stray bullet that struck him as he lay in bed.

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Police confirmed the shooting occurred just before 2 a.m. and that Matthew Willson, who was visiting his girlfriend in the Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven, died of a single gunshot wound to the head after being transported to an area hospital, WSB-TV reported.

Willson’s girlfriend, Katherine Shepard, told British media that the couple heard a heavy round of gunfire and that she suggested calling police before noticing that Willson was slumped after being shot, The Washington Post reported.

“His last words were, ‘Sure, I’m sure they are just messing around,’” Shepard told the media outlets, noting that she tried to stop the bleeding from Willson’s head with a towel.

The couple met while Willson, who hailed from the London suburb of Chertsey, worked as a researcher at Georgia State University, the Post reported.

According to WSB-TV, Willson was only three days into a three-month trip to metro Atlanta when he was killed. She and other neighbors told the TV station that random gunfire has been an issue across the area in recent months.

“They were just shooting a gun for fun. And they don’t even know that they’ve taken such a beautiful person from us,” Willson’s sister told British media, according to WSB-TV.

The British Foreign Office said it was in contact with U.S. authorities and was “supporting the family of a British man following his death in the USA,” the Post reported.