N.M. Sheriff: 'Rust' Cinematographer Fatally Struck by Lead Bullet

Oct. 27, 2021
The deadly projectile fired by actor and producer Alec Baldwin was one of about 500 rounds of ammo investigators collected from the film's Santa Fe set, the Santa Fe County's sheriff said.

By Julia Wick

Source Los Angeles Times

SANTA FE, NM—Authorities have determined that the projectile that fatally wounded cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was a lead bullet, one of roughly 500 rounds of ammunition recovered from the set of the film “Rust,” Santa Fe County authorities announced Wednesday.

During a Wednesday morning news conference, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said the deadly projectile was recovered from director Joel Souza’s shoulder at an area hospital.

Hutchins was fatally shot by what Mendoza described as a Colt .45-caliber revolver fired by actor and producer Alec Baldwin on the set of the film outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, last Thursday. The hundreds of rounds recovered on set were a mixture of “blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting were live rounds,” according to Mendoza.

The news conference was held outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, about 10 miles from the Bonanza Creek Ranch set where “Rust” was being filmed. Mendoza was joined by New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, the latter of whom serves a three-county area that includes Santa Fe, marking the first time the two lead law enforcement officials on the case have addressed the public since the fatal shooting — a tragedy that comes amid a broader reckoning around working conditions and safety on film sets.

At least three people, including Baldwin, handled the gun last Thursday before the shooting, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by the Sheriff’s Office. First assistant director Dave Halls picked up one of three guns that had been prepared by the production’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, from a rolling prop cart and brought it to Baldwin, according to the affidavit.

Halls allegedly yelled “cold gun,” meaning the weapon was not loaded, as he was handing it to Baldwin, according to the affidavit.

The shooting occurred when Baldwin, sitting in a pew of the old wooden church, was practicing removing the revolver from its holster and pointing it toward the camera, according to the affidavit.

Souza, the director, told the investigator that he heard “what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop.”

Hutchins, who was standing next to camera operator Reid Russell, was struck in the chest. Souza told the detective that Hutchins grabbed her midsection and “began to “stumble backwards,” according to the affidavit. Souza, who was behind Hutchins at the time, sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder and was treated at a Santa Fe hospital and released Friday.

Hutchins was airlifted to a hospital with a trauma center in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead.

“Rust” was just the second feature film that Reed, 24, had worked on as lead armorer, meaning she was in charge of overseeing gun safety and usage on set. Questions have been raised about Reed’s lack of experience and her recent behavior handling weapons on set.

According to search warrants, she left three weapons on a rolling cart outside the church setting at midday last Thursday. Souza told a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office investigator that multiple people had been handling the guns and that he wasn’t sure whether anyone had checked them for safety after the group came back from lunch.

Hours before the shooting, several members of the crew walked off set in protest of what they said were long hours, long commutes and long waits for paychecks, as well as a lack of safety protocols that resulted in multiple accidental discharges of prop guns prior to the fatal incident last Thursday.

Safety protocols that are standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the set, several crew members told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. The crew was 12 days into a 21-day shoot for the low-budget independent film when production was halted.

On Tuesday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham suggested that the state may push to adopt stricter safety protocols for productions filming in New Mexico, where production has become an integral part of the state economy in recent years.

Los Angeles Times staff writers Meg James, Amy Kaufman and James Queally contributed to this report.


©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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