‘Rust’ assistant director tells police he did not properly inspect gun

October 28, 2021
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza speaks during a press conference to give an update on the shooting accident on the set of the movie "Rust" at the on October 27, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Corrections & clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated details about bullet casings from the incident.

An assistant director on “Rust” told investigators he did not check all the rounds in the gun used on set before handing it to Alec Baldwin prior to the fatal shooting.

The news follows the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office revealing Wednesday that the “actual lead projectile that was fired” has been recovered from “Rust” director Joel Souza’s shoulder and is believed to be from a “live round” discharged by Baldwin on the set of the Western that ended in tragedy last week. 

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Sheriff Adan Mendoza said his office believes the projectile that injured Souza, 48, is from the same “live round” that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, on the New Mexico set on Oct. 21.

“I think the facts are clear. A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional, and fired a live round, killing Ms. Hutchins and injuring Mr. Souza,” Mendoza said.

As to how a live round was placed and not discovered in the .45 Long Colt revolver that Baldwin was using for the Western, Mendoza said the investigation is continuing. There was a small number of people directly nearby during the incident, and there was “no footage” of the rehearsal. The sheriff’s office is continuing to interview the 100 people who worked on the movie set.

What we know about the ‘Rust’ shooting:DA cites ‘enormous amount of bullets’ on the set

Assistant director says he did not properly inspect gun

Two other people handled the firearm before Baldwin – set armorer Hannah Gutierrez and assistant director Dave Halls. All three are cooperating with the sheriff’s office.

An affidavit from the sheriff’s office released Wednesday revealed that set armorer 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 said as the crew broke for lunch, the firearms were taken back and secured inside a safe on a set “prop truck.” During a lunch break, she stated the ammo was left on a cart and not secured.

A search warrant was issued Wednesday for the white truck.

Gutierrez said no live ammo was “ever kept” on the set, according to the affidavit. 

The affidavit said that Halls recalled seeing the firearm before continuing the post-lunch rehearsal. When asked about safety protocols, he 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.” In this case, the affidavit said, Hall “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.

‘No charges have been ruled out at this point’

Mendoza said Wednesday hundreds of rounds recovered on the “Rust” set were a mixture of “blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting were live rounds.”

“Obviously 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.

The sheriff also responded to unconfirmed reports that the guns on set 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.

Claims about Hannah Gutierrez surface

On Wednesday, CNN reported the claims of two crew members from the Western “The Old Way” who said Gutierrez had mishandled firearms on the set.

Stu Brumbaugh, the key grip for the upcoming film, said he reported Gutierrez to the film’s assistant director seeking to get her fired for reckless behavior, which included shooting a firearm near star Nicolas Cage without warning.

“Make an announcement! You just blew my (expletive) eardrums out!” Cage screamed, according to Brumbaugh.

“There’s a universal way to handle weapons on set and immediately red flags went up when I worked with Hannah,” Brumbaugh told CNN. “This is why I asked for her dismissal.”

“This is why people get injured because of rookie mistakes,” he said.

Affidavit reveals what happened in shooting aftermath 

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office revealed stark details of the incident in an affidavit released Sunday night.

Baldwin was sitting in a church pew practicing drawing his gun “and pointing his revolver towards the camera lens” during rehearsal for a church-set scene, Souza told the investigating officer.

Souza was concentrating on the camera angle in the set monitors while standing beside Hutchins 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 saw Hutchins stumble and was helped to the ground “complaining about her stomach and grabbing her midsection.”

Gun safety protocols:Are rigid on film and TV sets. This ‘should never have happened.’

Souza told investigators that prior to Baldwin being handed the gun, assistant director Halls had described it as a “cold gun,” an industry term for a weapon not containing live ammunition. The film’s director said there should “never be live rounds whatsoever near or around the film set.”

Souza said that guns on set were checked first by the film’s armorer, Gutierrez and checked 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.”

Cameraman Reid Russel told investigators that Baldwin was “very careful” with the firearms onset. During one previous scene, Baldwin had been cautious to make sure a child actor was not nearby before discharging the gun for a scene, Russel said.

More:Could Alec Baldwin be charged? Who is liable in Halyna Hutchins’ death?

According to court documents released Monday, authorities seized three black revolvers, ammunition boxes, a fanny pack with ammunition, several spent casings, two leather gun belts with holsters, articles of clothing and swabs of what were believed to be blood. 

The Los Angeles Times and Deadline reported that, hours before the fatal incident, roughly half a dozen members of the “Rust” camera crew walked off the job in protest of working conditions, including safety issues, 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.

On Friday morning, Baldwin spoke out about the “tragic” news and confirmed he is “fully cooperating” with the ongoing investigation. 

“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,” he said in a series of tweets.

Contributing: Jenna Ryu

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