Rust shooting: officials say single bullet likely caused injury and death after Alec
Officials confirmed on Wednesday that live bullets, including the round it is believed killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, were found on the set of the movie Rust last week after actor Alec Baldwin fired a gun as part of the action – but no decisions have been made yet about any criminal charges.
“We believe that we have, in our possession, the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin. This is the firearm we believe discharged the bullet,” said Santa Fe’s county sheriff, Adan Mendoza, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Filmmakers showed “complacency” about safety on set, the sheriff said initial inquiries had led the authorities to believe.
He added that his investigators believes they also have recovered “the spent shell casing from the bullet that was fired from the gun”.
The single, apparently-live round that injured Souza and likely also killed Hutchins was found in Souza’s shoulder after he was treated for his injuries at a local medical center, Mendoza said when giving updates on the investigation relating to last week’s tragedy on set in New Mexico.
Mendoza also said that officials recovered around 600 items of evidence, including three firearms and approximately 500 rounds of ammunition from the set of the desert western that was being filmed.
Two of the guns were non-functional. The third one, handed to Baldwin on the assumption it was safe, was a .45 Colt-style real gun, albeit an antique.
Possible additional live rounds, including the bullet the authorities believe killed Hutchins, will be submitted to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Virginia, confirmed the sheriff.
He refused to speculate, when questioned by reporters, about what happened to result in a single bullet evidently killing one and then injuring another person.
Mendoza said more interviews still needed to be conducted with people who had been on the Rust set, including a possible additional interviews with Baldwin, whom the sheriff described as being “cooperative”.
The actor was also a producer on the movie, where filming was shut down and has not resumed since Hutchins’ death last Thursday afternoon.
Mendoza also confirmed that his office is investigating reports of informal incidents of target practice having taken place on or near the set prior to the incident, and rumors of crew members drinking the night before.
“I think the industry has had a record recently of being safe. I think there was some complacency on this set. And I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico,” Mendoza said.
He held the short press conference with Santa Fe district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies .
“All options are on the table … No one has been ruled out at this point,” Carmack-Altwies said referring to potential criminal charges.
Last Thursday, a gun that Baldwin was holding mistakenly discharged ammunition while he was rehearsing a scene for the desert western movie, noted Rust’s director Joel Souza in a statement to the sheriff’s office.
Baldwin was “cross drawing” the revolver from its holster while Halyna Hutchins, the film’s director of photography, and Souza were standing by, checking camera angles.
When the gun discharged, Hutchins, who was shot in the torso, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico hospital where she was pronounced dead. Souza was wounded in the collarbone area, taken by ambulance to a medical center, and later released after treatment.
Baldwin, who had been pointing the gun at the camera, was told by crew that the gun was “a cold gun”, meaning the gun contained no ammunition and was safe to use.
“It’s a suspected live round that was fired but it did fire from the weapon and it did cause injury. That would lead us to believe it was a live round,” he said, referring to the round as a lead bullet.
Carmack-Altwies said it could take many weeks for any decisions to be made on whether any actions related to the tragedy warranted criminal charges.
The gun was also handled by first assistant director Dave Halls and armorer Hannah Guttierez-Reed before Baldwin fired it.
A public vigil for Hutchins was held on Sunday in Los Angeles outside the union of which she was a member, serving as an unofficial memorial for the 42-year old mother and filmmaker as well as an outlet for frustration and anger over low pay and poor working conditions in Hollywood that many crew-members believe were linked to Hutchins’ death.
Following the shooting, affidavits released on Sunday about the incident presented more clues about possible dysfunction on the Rust set. Just hours before the fatal shooting, several crew members had walked out, unhappy about pay and working conditions as well as safety fears.
Halls Rust, had also been the subject of internal complaint on a previous film set. Maggie Goll, a prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, said she had raised concerns about Hall’s conduct on set with the executive producers of Hulu’s Into the Dark TV series in 2019, where some crew were scared about their safety. He has yet to comment.
“This situation is not about Dave Halls … It’s in no way one person’s fault,” Goll said, noting that there were larger issues about the wellbeing of crew that had to be addressed. “It’s a bigger conversation about safety on set and what we are trying to achieve with that culture,” she added.
Further concerns were raised about Halls on Monday, after a producer who communicated with the Associated Press said Halls had been fired from a previous job after a gun went off on a previous film set and wounded a member of the crew.