$15K Reward Offered in Death of U.K. Scientist Killed By Stray Bullet in Atlanta

Georgia police are offering a $15,000 reward in attempts to find the gunman responsible for firing the stray bullet that killed a U.K. scientist inside an apartment complex near Atlanta.

Dr. Matthew Willson was only three days into his three-month visit with his girlfriend, Katherine Shepard, at her apartment when a stray bullet from a neighboring apartment building came through their wall on January 16. The bullet traveled through the bed's headboard and hit him in the back of his head. He died later in a hospital, the Brookhaven police said a statement on Facebook.

It's not exactly known how many victims in the U.S. are struck by bullets that were not intended for them, such as Willson, because the FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they don't track shooting deaths caused by stray bullets, France24 reported.

However, gun violence expert Chris Herrmann told France24 he estimates stray bullets caused one to two percent of the yearly 40,000 firearms deaths—or 400-800 deaths—in the U.S.

Shepard told WSB-TV the pair woke up after hearing more than 30 gunshots at a nearby apartment complex. Police said several calls were placed to 911 reporting the gunfire, and officers were dispatched to the scene around 2:00 a.m.

She said the two apartment buildings were a significant distance away from each other and separated by trees and bushes.

"I held him for another 20 minutes while we waited for the ambulance," she told the TV station. "And while we were waiting, there were more gunshots fired. I was just trying to keep him there, you know, talking to him."

The Brookhaven police said Willson was killed "as a result of the reckless discharge of firearms" at the nearby apartment complex, according to the department's Facebook post.

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"I don't come from a country that has gun culture or any kind of gun crime like this," Willson's sister Kate told WSB. "It's even more shocking for me that my innocent brother was caught in the crossfire."

WSB reported Willson and Shepard met at Georgia State University while studying astronomy. Wilson then went to earn his Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Exeter in the U.K.

Shepard had been dating Willson for three years, but they've been long-distance for some time. "I picked him up from the airport, took him to his favorite eating location, and the next day, he's gone," she told WSB.

"He made everyone around him smile and laugh and he always brought joy to the people that were around him," Willson's sister said according to WSB.

Brookhaven police asked anyone with information to contact them or submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at (404)-557-TIPS (8447), according to their Facebook page.

Georgia Police Offering Reward for Apartment Shooting
Above, Matthew Willson, 31, of Chertsey, Surrey, England, with his girlfriend Katherine Shepard. Brookhaven police are offering a $15,000 reward for information in hopes of finding the gunman responsible for firing the bullet that struck and killed Willson while visiting his girlfriend in Georgia. Brookhaven Police Dept/AP Photo