The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that a spent shell casing taken from “Rust” director Joel Souza’s shoulder is believed to be a “live round” fired by Alec Baldwin on the set of the Western that ended in tragedy last week.
Speaking at a press conference, Sheriff Adan Mendoza said his office believes the live round that injured Souza, 48, is “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 Long Colt. 45 revolver that producer and actor Baldwin was using for the Western, Mendoza said the investigation is continuing. There were a small number of people nearby during the Oct. 21 incident, and there was “no footage.” But the sheriff’s office is continuing to interview the 100 people who worked on the movie set.
Two other people handled the loaded firearm before Baldwin. armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls.
Mendoza said hundreds of rounds recovered on the “Rust” set were a mixture of “blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting were live rounds.”
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said at the press conference that Baldwin, “is an active part of this investigation.” She would not rule out charges being brought against Baldwin. “All options are on the table at this point. We cannot answer that question yet.”
An affidavit from the sheriff’s office released Wednesday revealed that set armorer Gutierrez advised on the day of the incident, she checked the “dummies” and ensured they 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” on set. During a 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.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office revealed stark details of the incident in an affidavit released Sunday night.
Baldwin, 63, 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.”
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Souza told investigators that prior to Baldwin being handed the gun, assistant director Dave 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, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 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.
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.
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in an interview Tuesday that criminal charges are still possible, but won’t be filed any time soon amid the ongoing investigation.
“It’s probably weeks, if not months, of follow-up investigation that we’re going to need to get to the point of charging,” Carmack-Altwies told the The New York Times, adding that investigators “haven’t ruled out anything. Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table.”
Carmack-Altwies said the widely-used descriptions of the firearm involved in the incident as “prop-gun” was misleading. “It was a legit gun,” she said. “It was an antique-era appropriate gun.”
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 Friday.
Contributing: Jenna Ryu