District Attorney Hasn’t Ruled out Criminal Charges in Fatal Shooting on ‘Rust’ Set

Wire Service
By Wire Service
October 27USshare
District Attorney Hasn’t Ruled out Criminal Charges in Fatal Shooting on ‘Rust’ Set
(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)

A district attorney in New Mexico hasn’t ruled out criminal charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the “Rust” movie set, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday, noting the shooting remains under active investigation.

News of the ongoing potential for criminal charges was first reported on Tuesday by the New York Times following a phone interview with Mary Carmack-Altwies, the district attorney for Santa Fe County.

“We haven’t ruled out anything,” Mary Carmack-Altwies was quoted as saying to the New York Times in a phone interview. “Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table.”

Carmack-Altwies told the NY Times the term “prop gun” is misleading and the gun that killed Hutchins was a “legit gun,” describing it as an “antique-era appropriate gun.”

Cinematographer Halyna
Halyna Hutchins, director of photography for “Rust”, is seen in this undated handout picture, unknown location. (Andriy Semenyuk/Handout via Reuters)

According to the report, Carmack-Altwies said the investigation is focusing on ballistics to determine what kind of rounds were used, and who placed them in the gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin.

“There were an enormous amount of bullets on this set, and we need to find out what kinds they were,” Carmack-Altwies was quoted as saying.

The district attorney is expected to participate in a news conference with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office scheduled for Wednesday morning.

The district attorney also said news reports crew members were using guns with live ammunition for target practice hours before the fatal shooting occurred were “unconfirmed.”

The DA was referring in part to the founder and CEO of The Wrap, Sharon Waxman, telling CNN’s Don Lemon Monday—citing information from an individual with knowledge of the set—”Rust” crew members used guns with live ammunition and engaged in a pastime called “plinking” hours before Hutchins was shot.

One of the guns used was later handed to Baldwin, who fired the shot that killed Hutchins, 42, and injured director Joel Souza, The Wrap reported.

“They go out into the rural areas and they shoot at beer cans. This is with live ammunition. We learned that this happened the morning of the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed,” Waxman said.

Waxman told CNN “plinking” is common when there’s downtime during a shoot.

CNN has not been able to confirm The Wrap’s reporting.

When asked by The Wrap for comment on this reporting, “Rust” producers referred back to their previous statement sent to media outlets, including CNN: “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.”

The incident happened Thursday at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Bonanza Creek Ranch
The Bonanza Creek Ranch one day after an incident left one crew member dead and another injured in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 22, 2021. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Gun Went Off as Baldwin Practiced Quick Draw, Director Says

Souza, who was injured in the shoulder, told investigators the prop gun went off as Baldwin was practicing drawing his gun, according to an affidavit for a search warrant.

Souza spoke to investigators Friday, according to the affidavit released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday.

He told them Baldwin was “sitting in a pew in a church building setting, and he was practicing a cross draw,” the affidavit said. A cross draw is when a shooter pulls the weapon from a holster on the opposite side of the body from the draw hand.

Souza was looking over Hutchins’ shoulder “when he heard what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop,” according to the affidavit.

He also confirmed to an investigator he heard the term “cold gun” on set, meaning the firearm should have been empty.

Director Joel Souza
Director Joel Souza at an interview session in Manhattan, New York, on April 26, 2019. (Erik Meers/uInterview.com/Handout via Reuters)

According to the warrant, Souza said three people had been handling the firearms for scenes—they were checked by the armorer and first assistant director and then given to the actor using them.

The investigator said Souza was unaware of anyone on set being checked to see whether they had live ammunition on them before or after the scenes were filmed.

“The only thing checked are the firearms to avoid live ammunition being in them. Joel (Souza) stated there should never be live rounds whatsoever near or around the scene,” the affidavit said.

Souza’s representatives have not returned CNN’s requests for comment.

Attorney Gloria Allred said Tuesday, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell has evidence and information that will be “helpful in this investigation.”

Mitchell was standing “very close” to Hutchins and Souza, she said, and called 911, Allred said.

“Halyna was a friend and close colleague of Mamie,” Allred said. “She is devastated by the loss of her friend, who was an extraordinary woman.”

Allred said Mitchell has been interviewed by the sheriff’s office and will not be speaking to the media.

Photos of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins
Photos of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins are displayed before a vigil held to honor her at Albuquerque Civic Plaza in Albuquerque, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021. (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

Results of Final Autopsy Will Take Weeks

Completion of the final medical examiner’s autopsy report on Hutchins’ death could take weeks, according to information from the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

A spokesperson declined to provide details on the investigation but said autopsy reports from their office typically take 6–10 weeks to complete.

A sheriff’s department official previously told CNN they are awaiting a forensic report from the medical examiner in order to determine what type of projectile killed Hutchins.

The medical examiner spokesperson said the office does not publicly disclose information about the type of projectile that resulted in someone’s death until an autopsy report is finalized.

A sign directs to Bonanza Creek Ranch
A sign directs people to the road that leads to the Bonanza Creek Ranch where the movie “Rust” is being filmed in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 22, 2021. (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

There were no complaints of unsafe conditions on the set of “Rust” sent to the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) in New Mexico, according to an email sent to CNN from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).

The armorer who prepared the prop gun used by Baldwin on Thursday was identified in search warrant documents as Hannah Gutierrez. She had recently finished work on her first project as head armorer, she said in a September podcast interview.

“I was really nervous about it at first,” Gutierrez said of working as head armorer on the set of the movie “The Old Way,” starring Nicolas Cage.

“I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but doing it, like it went really smoothly,” she said in an interview on the “Voices of the West” podcast, which is dedicated to the Old West.

Her work as armorer ranges from teaching actors how to wear a gun belt to aiming and shooting, she said.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report

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