Gun Not Thoroughly Checked Before Alec Baldwin Fired Fatal Shot

By Reuters
October 27, 2021US News
Gun Not Thoroughly Checked Before Alec Baldwin Fired Fatal Shot
Executive Producer Alec Baldwin attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival-"Beast Beast" Premiere at Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 25, 2020. (Jim Bennett/Getty Images)

SANTA FE, N.M.—A .45 caliber Colt pistol used on the set of the film “Rust” was not thoroughly checked before being given to actor Alec Baldwin, who fired a live lead bullet in an accidental fatal shooting last week in New Mexico, according to officials and a new court filing.

New details about the incident emerged on Wednesday during a news conference by Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza and District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and in an affidavit filed by the local sheriff’s department. Mendoza also told reporters there was a complacent attitude toward safety on the set before last Thursday’s shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal.

Halyna Hutchins, Alec Baldwin
(Left) Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 28, 2019. (Fred Hayes/Getty Images for SAGindie); (Right) Hamptons International Film Festival Chairman Alec Baldwin attends the World Premiere of National Geographic Documentary Films’ ‘The First Wave’ at Hamptons International Film Festival in East Hampton, N.Y., on Oct. 7, 2021. (Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic)

Hannah Gutierrez, the crew member in charge of weapons on the set, told investigators that she had checked guns there but found no “hot rounds”—apparently meaning live ammunition—before the shooting, according to the affidavit filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department.

Dave Halls, the film’s assistant director, told investigators he “should have checked all” the rounds in the gun before handing it to Baldwin but had not done so, according to the affidavit. Authorities have said previously that Baldwin was handed what he thought was a “cold,” or safe, gun by Halls, who took it from a cart used by Gutierrez.

Mendoza and Carmack-Altwies said that while no charges have been filed, they are not ruling out that possibility.

“All options are on the table. … No one has been ruled out at this point,” Carmack-Altwies said referring to potential criminal charges.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza (L) speaks as Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies (R) listens during a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 27, 2021. (Andres Leighton/AP Photo)

Gutierrez, whose job is formally known as the film crew’s armorer, said ammunition was not secured on the set during a lunch break taken before the shooting, the affidavit showed. It quoted her as saying that firearms were secured inside a safe during the break and that no live ammunition is ever kept on a movie set.

Mendoza said that authorities have collected 600 pieces of evidence including three firearms, 500 rounds of ammunition—some believed to be live bullets—and several pieces of clothing and accessories in the ongoing investigation. Some evidence is being sent to an FBI crime lab for analysis, Mendoza said.

Authorities have the firearm used in the shooting, Mendoza said, and they recovered the bullet from the shoulder of director Joel Souza, who was wounded but later released from the hospital. Mendoza said it appears the same bullet struck Souza and Hutchins.

Mendoza said the gun used by Baldwin was an Italian-made Pietta Long Colt revolver.

“We would consider it a live round— a bullet, live—because it did fire from the weapon and obviously caused the death of Ms. Hutchins and injured Mr. Souza,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said Baldwin, Halls, and Gutierrez all cooperating with the investigation.

Asked about the use of real weapons on a movie set, the sheriff said, “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.”

Bonanza Creek Film Ranch
A law enforcement vehicle leaves the Bonanza Creek Film Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 22, 2021. (Andres Leighton/AP Photo)

The shooting has sent shockwaves through Hollywood, prompting a debate about safety protocols in film and television—including whether certain types of guns—used as props should be banned, and working conditions on low-budget productions.

Before the incident, camera operators had walked off the set to protest working conditions, according to the affidavit.

Baldwin, 63, serves as a co-producer of “Rust,” a Western film set in 1880s Kansas. Production on the Bonanza Creek Ranch, near Santa Fe, has been halted.

Baldwin was drawing a revolver across his body and pointing it at a camera while rehearsing when the weapon fired, according to court documents. There is no video footage of the incident, Mendoza said.

The film’s producers have hired the law firm Jenner & Block to investigate the shooting. In a letter sent to cast and crew on Tuesday night, the film’s production team said Jenner “will have full discretion about who to interview and any conclusions they draw.”

By Lisa Richwine