New details have emerged about how live ammunition may have ended up alongside dummy rounds on the set of the film “Rust,” where star Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.
On Tuesday, a judge approved a search warrant for detectives to seize documents, ammunition and other objects from PDQ Arm & Prop, a company that provided ammunition for the film.
An affidavit included with the warrant says Seth Kenney, the owner of PDQ, told investigators on Oct. 29 that the live round shot from Baldwin’s prop gun may have been “reloaded ammunition” bearing the logo of Starline Brass, the company that manufactures the dummy rounds and blanks his business supplies to movie sets.
“(Kenney) described how (Starline) only sells components of ammunition, and not live ammunition, therefore it had to be a reloaded round,” the document says.
Prop master Sarah Zachry told investigators on Oct. 21 that “Rust” got its ammunition from multiple sources, including Kenney and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who brought rounds from a production she worked on previously.
Zachry said she checked a box of ammunition after the shooting and found that some cartridges rattled, which “signified them being ‘dummy rounds,’ ” while other cartridges did not.
Following the shooting, a helicopter transported Hutchins, 42, to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Souza was transported via ambulance to Christus St. Vincent’s hospital and was later released.
The affidavit also notes that Gutierrez’s father, Hollywood armorer Thell Reed, told investigators in November that he worked with Kenney on a different production around August and September. During this production, Reed said Kenney asked him to bring live ammunition to train actors on a firearms range. Reed said he brought a green “ammo can” that contained about 200 to 300 rounds that weren’t made in a factory.
According to Reed, Kenney took this ammunition can back with him to New Mexico after the training. Though Reed said he made “several attempts” to get the can back from Kenney, he said Kenney told him to “write it off,” according to the document.
“Thell stated this ammunition may match the ammunition found on the set of Rust,” the affidavit adds.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Jason Bowles, an attorney for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, called the search warrant “a huge step forward … to unearth the full truth of who put the live rounds on the Rust set.”
“We trust that the FBI will now compare and analyze the ‘live rounds’ seized from the set to evidence seized in the search warrant to conclusively determine where the live rounds came from,” Bowles said Tuesday. “The questions of who introduced the live rounds onto the set and why are the central questions in the case.”
Here’s everything we know about the fatal prop gun misfire and ensuing investigation.
Halyna Hutchins mourned by husband
Halyna’s husband Matthew Hutchins released a touching statement through attorneys on Nov. 19 honoring his late wife’s impact on the film community.
“Halyna was the love of my life, and our loss of her has devastated our family’s dreams. We feel the silence of her being forever gone as a suffocating stillness in our home. Our love and adoration for her grows as we tell her story, and we hope her work can inspire filmmakers and storytellers around the world. We thank the many generous supporters who have been so thoughtful in our time of loss,” he said in the statement, released ahead of a private ceremony to inter her ashes.
He also shared a photo of his wife’s memorial marker that read: “Her light shapes our lives keep chasing your vision.”
Hutchins’ husband is also retaining legal counsel from Los Angeles-based Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi LLP, the law firm’s representative Jaclyn Vazquez confirmed to USA TODAY on Nov. 3. Brian Panish will act as lead lawyer. Although the law firm wouldn’t provide further comment on Hutchins’ legal plans, it specializes in personal injury, wrongful death litigation and business litigation, according to its website.
Born in Ukraine, Hutchins previously served as director of cinematography for the 2020 action film “Archenemy,” starring Joe Manganiello, who paid tribute to the “absolutely incredible talent.”
According to her website, she received a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine, worked on British documentary productions in Europe and graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.
Alec Baldwin sued for negligence by ‘Rust’ crew member
A civil suit against Baldwin was filed in Los Angeles Nov. 10 on behalf of Serge Svetnoy, who is described as a chief lighting technician on the film and a close friend of Hutchins.
According to the complaint, filed by Svetnoy’s lawyers Gary Dordick, John Upton and Golnar Monfared, Svetnoy was present during the incident in which Baldwin fired a prop gun containing a live round, killing Hutchins and injuring Souza. This memory, the complaint says, “will haunt (Svetnoy) forever.”
After hearing “the loudest gunshot that he has ever experienced on a movie set” and feeling “a strange and terrifying whoosh” on his right side, Svetnoy turned to help Hutchins, who laid on the floor clutching her abdomen, the lawsuit says.
“(Svetnoy) cradled her head and spoke to her, trying to keep her calm, alert, and conscious,” the complaint continues. “As he held her, he noticed that the hand placed behind her back was becoming wet with her blood.”
“Rust” was the ninth film that Svetnoy and Hutchins had worked on together, and he had taken the job at low pay because she asked him to. “She was my friend,” Svetnoy said at a news conference.
“The next 20-30 minutes felt like the longest of (Svetnoy’s) life as he tried to aid and comfort Ms. Hutchins, watching helplessly as her consciousness faded inexorably away,” the lawsuit adds. “But for an inch or two, possibly less, that bullet could have ended his life. Overcome by emotion, shock, grief, trauma, and anxiety, he broke down and wept.”
Svetnoy’s suit, the first to be filed in the wake of the shooting, names star and producer Baldwin, set armorer Reed, assistant director Dave Halls, Rust Movie Productions and other companies and individuals involved with the film.
Svetnoy is seeking damages and a jury trial and alleges general negligence against all defendants.
The defendants “were each independently and ultimately responsible for ensuring safety on the set, for ensuring that filming and production were conducted in a safe manner, and for compliance with appliable laws, regulations, and standards during the filming of Rust,” the suit says.
Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers say she’s ‘being framed,’ double down on ‘sabotage’ allegations
In November, an attorney for armorer Reed doubled down on claims of sabotage on the set of the film “Rust,” insisting that his client, who was in charge of overseeing the film’s prop weaponry, is being set up.
“We are convinced that this was sabotage and Hannah is being framed,” Reed’s attorney Bowles said in a statement to USA TODAY on Nov. 10. “We believe that the scene was tampered with as well before the police arrived.”
Bowles also noted that Reed is cooperating with law enforcement and provided a full interview to Santa Fe County deputy sheriffs.
In a “Today” show interview on Nov. 3, Robert Gorence, another attorney for Hutchins, said his client “had another duty and responsibility as key props assistant, and so she had gone to do that, right after she had provided the handgun to Mr. Halls.”
“So Mr. Halls took custody of the weapon and at that point she was doing her other duties as key prop assistant,” he added.
In a statement released after the TV interview, Reed’s attorneys said she was “incredibly safety conscious” on set.
The statement added: “Never in a million years did Hannah think that live rounds could have been in the ‘dummy’ round box. Who put those in there and why is the central question.”
Alec Baldwin calls for police to monitor gun safety on every set
In the wake of the shooting, Baldwin called for a police presence on the set of every film or TV show that features guns.
“Every film/TV set that uses guns, fake or otherwise, should have a police officer on set, hired by the production, to specifically monitor weapons safety,” he tweeted Nov. 8.
A day after the shooting, Baldwin tweeted: “There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours.”
The actor has since made his Twitter account private.
Assistant director Dave Halls breaks silence on shooting, admits not checking gun properly
On Nov. 1, Halls broke his silence on the incident in a statement to the New York Post.
“I’m shocked and saddened by her death,” he said. “It’s my hope that this tragedy prompts the industry to re-evaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again.”
Halls didn’t provide details on what he thinks might be reformed or how changes might have helped avoid what happened on the set of “Rust.”
In an interview with Fox News on Nov. 1, Halls’ attorney Lisa Torraco called the incident a “freak accident” and raised doubts about who handed Baldwin the gun on set.
“This idea that my client grabbed the gun off of a prop cart and handed it to Mr. Baldwin absolutely did not happen,” she said. But Torraco appeared to backpedal on this statement when pressed by host Martha MacCallum, refusing to give a direct answer when repeatedly asked if Halls was the last person to touch the gun before handing it to Baldwin. USA TODAY has reached out to Torraco for clarification.
“Expecting an assistant director to check a firearm is like telling the assistant director to check the camera angle,” Torraco told MacCallum. “That’s not the assistant director’s job.”
According to the affidavit, when asked about safety protocols, Halls told investigators: “I check the barrel for obstructions, most of the time there’s no live fire, she (Hannah) opens the hatch and spins the drum, and I say ‘cold gun’ on set,” indicating a weapon that doesn’t contain ammunition.
In this case, the affidavit said, Halls “could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum.”
Halls “advised the incident was not a deliberate act,” according to the warrant.
District attorney says ‘all options are on the table’
Speaking at an Oct. 27 news conference, Sheriff Adan Mendoza responded to unconfirmed reports that the prop guns had been used in off hours for target practice.
“We are aware of those statements and we are investigating whether or not that is true,” Mendoza said. “And I would encourage anybody that has any information that any target practicing or any firearm was discharged away from the movie set or for practice or for whatever reason to contact the sheriff’s office.”
Mendoza said Baldwin, 63, is “obviously the person that fired the weapon” and is “an active part of the investigation.”
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies would not rule out charges being brought against Baldwin, the film’s star and a producer. “All options are on the table at this point. We cannot answer that question yet.”
“No one has been ruled out at this point,” Carmack-Altwies said.
An affidavit from the sheriff’s office revealed Gutierrez told investigators that on the day of the incident, she checked the “dummies” and ensured there were not “hot” rounds in the firearm.
Gutierrez added that as the crew broke for lunch, the firearms were taken back and secured inside a safe on a set “prop truck.” During the lunch break, she stated the ammo was left on a cart and not secured.
Gutierrez said no live ammo was “ever kept” on the set, according to the affidavit.
Director Joel Souza recalls graphic details of misfire
Souza has given the most complete explanation over what happened in the fatal shooting.
According to a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office affidavit, Baldwin, sitting in a church pew, was rehearsing drawing his weapon “and pointing his revolver towards the camera lens” during the church-setting rehearsal.
Souza said he was “concentrated on the monitors” standing beside Hutchins viewing the camera angle as they prepared for the first scene to be shot after a lunch break.
Souza said he heard what “sounded like a whip and then loud pop” and heard Hutchins “complaining about her stomach and grabbing her midsection.”
Hutchins “began to stumble backwards and was assisted to the ground,” Souza told police. Souza was bleeding from his own injury to the shoulder.
Souza told investigators that, prior to Baldwin being handed the gun, Halls had described it as a “cold gun.” The film’s director said there should “never be live rounds whatsoever near or around the film set.”
He said that guns on set were checked first by Reed and again by Halls, who would hand the firearms to the actor using them.
After the crew returned to the set after the lunch break, Souza said he was “not sure if the firearm was checked again.”
‘Rust’ crew members had walked off set to protest working conditions
Half a dozen crew members reportedly walked off the set of “Rust” in protest of working conditions hours before Hutchins was killed.
A camera crew member anonymously told The Associated Press that those working on the film raised concerns about several problems, ranging from safety procedures to their housing accommodations.
The Los Angeles Times and Deadline reported that, hours before the fatal incident, members of the “Rust” camera crew walked off the job in protest and, per the LA Times, were replaced with nonunion crew members soon after. The outlets also noted at least two previous misfires on a prop gun on set days before.
In a statement to the outlets, Rust Movie Productions LLC said the “safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.”
IATSE Local 44, a union of prop makers and other craft persons who work within the entertainment industry, sent a message to their members that was obtained by USA TODAY confirming that no Local 44 members were on the set at the time of the shooting.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, Amy Haneline, Jenna Ryu and Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press