New Mexico authorities investigating the on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by actor Alec Baldwin said Wednesday it was too early to determine if criminal charges will be filed, but the sheriff said more than 500 rounds of ammunition, likely including some live rounds, were found on the set.
Sheriff Adan Mendoza said the ammunition — apparently a mix of blanks and dummy rounds, along with some suspected live ammunition — is among 600 pieces of evidence that have been gathered so far in the investigation.
“We believe that we have in our possession the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin,” Mendoza said. “This is the firearm we believe discharged the bullet.”
The sheriff also confirmed that the lead projectile apparently fired by Baldwin during a rehearsal was recovered from film director Joel Souza’s shoulder. The gun had been declared safe by an on-set assistant director who handed Baldwin the weapon, but the discovery of the lead bullet indicates the gun was actually loaded with a live round, Mendoza said.
Baldwin, 63, was rehearsing a scene outside a church on the set of the western film “Rust” south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, last Thursday when he discharged the prop weapon, killing the 42-year-old Hutchins and injuring Souza, 48. Baldwin is also a producer on the film.
Officials have said the bullet struck Hutchins in the chest then lodged in Souza’s shoulder as he stood behind the cinematographer.
“In reference to possible charges, it’s too early right now in the investigation to comment on charges at this point,” Mendoza said. “The investigation will continue, and if the sheriff’s office determines during our investigation a crime has occurred and probable cause exists, an arrest or arrests will be made and charges will be filed. Otherwise, we will complete our investigation and forward the full investigation and evidence to the District Attorney for review.”
Mendoza said there may also have been other live rounds on the set besides the one that killed Hutchins.
“We suspect that there was other live rounds that were found on the set,” he said. “I won’t comment further on how they got there — but we suspect that they are there. That will be determined when testing is done by the crime lab in reference to whether or not they are officially live rounds or not.”
Mendoza added that people who inspected or handled the firearm before it got to Baldwin have been interviewed, “and there’s some follow-up questions that we need to do.”
“We’re gonna try and determine exactly how that happened and if they should have known that there was a live round in that firearm,” Mendoza said.
According to an affidavit filed last week in support of a search warrant in Santa Fe, investigators stated that first assistant director Dave Halls picked up one of three guns from a mobile cart that had been prepared by the production’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed.
Halls allegedly declared “cold gun,” meaning the weapon was not loaded, as he was handing it to Baldwin. The shooting occurred moments later as Baldwin was practicing drawing the weapon, a .45-caliber Colt revolver.
According to another affidavit filed Wednesday, Hall acknowledged to investigators that he did not check all of the rounds in the weapon before handing it to Baldwin and declaring it a “cold gun,” according to media reports out of New Mexico. He told investigators that Reed showed him the weapon earlier and “he could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she (Reed) spun the drum.”
The Wrap reported Monday that several members of the film’s crew had taken prop guns from the set the morning of the shooting and used them to go target shooting, with live ammunition. The gun Baldwin later fired during rehearsal, killing Hutchins, was among them, according to The Wrap.
Mendoza said his agency was investigating that report.
The sheriff insisted that everyone interviewed in connection with the investigation, including Baldwin, have been cooperative.
Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies agreed with Mendoza on Wednesday — saying it’s too early in the investigation to comment on charges, but that all options are on the table and no one has been ruled out in terms of potential criminal liability.
She said crew members who handled guns before Baldwin was handed the weapon that killed Hutchins have been interviewed, and will be interviewed again.
“I must emphasize that a complete and thorough investigation is critical to DA review,” Carmack-Altwies said. “We take the corroborative facts and evidence and connect it to New Mexico law, and we are not at that juncture yet. If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time.”
Meanwhile, production on the movie “Rust” remains suspended.
CNN reported Tuesday that Halls was fired from a previous film production, the 2019 film “Freedom’s Path,” after a gun “unexpectedly discharged” on set, injuring a sound crew member.
In a statement to CNN, that film’s production company, Rocket Soul Studios, said Halls was terminated and he was “very remorseful” about what had occurred and “understood the reasons he was being terminated.”
The death of Hutchins has also renewed concerns about on-set safety.
A half-dozen camera crew workers had walked off the “Rust” set hours before the fatal shooting, protesting working conditions, including long hours, safety conditions and issues getting their paychecks. According to multiple reports, Hutchins had been advocating for safer conditions for her team.
One person who was on the set said there had been two misfires involving the prop gun on Saturday, and one the previous week.
The “Rust” production company issued a statement saying, “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”
A crew member on the film, Serge Svetnoy, took to Facebook on Sunday and said the shooting was the result of “negligence and unprofessionalism” on the set.
“The negligence from the person who was supposed to check the weapon on the site did not do this; the person who had to announce that the loaded gun was on the site did not do this; the person who should have checked this weapon before bringing it to the set did not do it,” Svetnoy wrote.
The sheriff and district attorney on Wednesday both acknowledged the various reports of conditions on the “Rust” set leading up to the shooting. While they said all such reports would be investigated, Mendoza said there appeared to be a sense of “complacency” about safety on the set. He urged anyone with information to contact sheriff’s investigators.
A GoFundMe page established by the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 to benefit Hutchins’ family — her husband Matthew and 9-year-old son, Andros — had raised nearly $225,000 as of Wednesday, far surpassing its original $10,000 goal.
Baldwin has expressed “shock and sadness” over the death.
“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,” Baldwin wrote on his Twitter page Friday morning.
“I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family.
“My heart is broken for her husband, their son and all who knew and loved Halyna.”