An assistant director unwittingly handed Alec Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was safe to use in the moments before the actor fatally shot a cinematographer on the set of “Rust” in New Mexico, court records released Friday show.
“Cold gun,” the assistant director announced, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court and obtained by the Associated Press.
Instead, the gun was loaded with live rounds, and when Baldwin pulled the trigger Thursday on the set of the Western, he killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded, the records said.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office obtained the warrant Friday so investigators could document the scene at the ranch outside Santa Fe where the shooting took place. They sought Baldwin’s blood-stained costume as evidence, as well as the weapon that was fired, other prop guns and ammunition, and any footage that might exist.
Assistant director unaware gun was loaded with live rounds
The shooting occurred around 1:50 p.m. local time on the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“According to investigators it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” a Thursday release from the sheriff’s office said. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”
The gun was one of three that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, had set on a cart outside the wooden structure where a scene was being acted, according to the records. Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds, a detective wrote in the search warrant application.
It was unclear how many rounds were fired.
Halls did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment. The Associated Press was unable to contact Gutierrez, and several messages sent to production companies affiliated with the film were not immediately returned Friday.
The film’s script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, said she was standing next to Hutchins when she was shot.
“I ran out and called 911 and said ‘Bring everybody, send everybody,’” Mitchell told The Associated Press.
Mitchell said she and other crew members were attending a private memorial service Friday night in Santa Fe. “This woman is gone at the beginning of her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman,” Mitchell said.
Baldwin expresses sorrow, is free to travel
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.
“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.”
No immediate charges were filed, and sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said Baldwin was permitted to travel.
“He’s a free man,” Rios said.
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‘Rust’ crew members had walked off set to protest working conditions
Crew members reportedly walked off the set of “Rust” in protest of working conditions hours before Hutchins was killed.
The outlets reported that, hours before the fatal incident, members of the “Rust” camera crew packed up their gear and walked off the job in protest 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.
In a statement to the LA Times and Deadline, Rust Movie Productions LLC said the “safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.”
IATSE Local 44, a union of prop makers and other craft persons who work within the entertainment industry, sent an message to their members Thursday that was obtained by USA TODAY, confirming that no Local 44 members were on set at the time of the shooting.
Who was killed by the prop gun?
Hutchins was airlifted to the hospital after being shot by Baldwin. She was later pronounced dead by medical personnel at University of New Mexico Hospital, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. She was 42.
Born in Ukraine, Hutchins previously served as director of cinematography for the 2020 action film “Archenemy,” starring Joe Manganiello, who paid tribute to the “absolutely incredible talent” on Thursday.
‘My heart is broken’: Alec Baldwin says he’s ‘fully cooperating’ after deadly prop gun incident
“I was so lucky to have had @halynahutchins as my DP on Archenemy,” he wrote on Instagram. “This is a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to her family and especially to her son. I am so sad today for everyone who knew her and worked with her.”
According to her website, she grew up on the Soviet base in the Arctic Circle and was “surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines.” She received a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine, worked on British documentary productions in Europe and graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019. Hutchins is survived by her husband, Matthew Hutchins, with whom she had a son.
Who was injured?
The director, 48-year-old Joel Souza, was transported via ambulance to Christus St. Vincent’s hospital and later was released, according to his rep Matt DelPiano.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement: “We are devastated by this tragic news. Our hearts go out to the family of Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins who has passed away and to Director Joel Souza who is injured and hospitalized.”
Souza last directed 2019’s “Crown Vic,” a feature starring Bridget Moynahan and Thomas Jane that was also produced by Baldwin. His previous credits include 2015’s “Ghost Squad” and 2017’s “Break Night.”
Film veterans explain safety protocols for prop guns on set
Film veterans explain safety protocols for prop guns on movie sets following an incident with a prop firearm discharged by Alec Baldwin.
Staff video, USA TODAY
Has prop gun misfiring happened before?
There have been scores of actors and crew members injured or killed on past movie sets like Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, who was shot to death on the set of “The Crow” in 1993. The gun was intended to have fired a blank, but an autopsy found a bullet lodged near his spine.
Earlier in 1984, Jon-Erik Hexum, 26, died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette on the set of the TV series ″Cover Up.″
In response to Thursday’s on-set incident, the official account of Brandon Lee – run by his sister, Shannon Lee – wrote: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust.’ No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”
‘No one should ever be killed’ by prop: Alec Baldwin mishap surfaces Brandon Lee death
Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on “Rust”. No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period. 💔
— Brandon Bruce Lee (@brandonblee) October 22, 2021
Will ‘Rust’ continue filming?
Filming for “Rust” was set to continue into early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office.
However, production has been halted amid the ongoing investigation, and “the safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority,” according to reports.
“The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones,” Rust Movie Productions LLC, said in a statement obtained by Deadline and the New York Times. “We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.”
What is the movie ‘Rust’ about?
The movie “Rust” is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to IMDb.com. The teen goes on the run with his long estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after he’s sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.
Contributing: Rasha Ali, Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, The Associated Pres