This aerial photo shows the film set at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Saturday, October 23, 2021. Actor Alec Baldwin fired a rifle on the set of a western that was filmed at the ranch on Thursday, October 21. having killed the cinematographer, officials said.
Jae S. Hong | AP
Investigators investigating the death of cinematographer Halina Hutchins in an accident on the set of the Western film Rust are still gathering evidence and are not yet ready to determine whether charges should be brought in the case.
“It’s too early to comment on the allegations,” Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said during a joint press conference Wednesday with First District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altvis.
Mendoza told reporters that investigators believed they had a pistol and a used cartridge case and that they had found a lead shell from director Joel Sousa’s shoulder. This shell is believed to have killed Hutchins.
He said there were 500 rounds on set, which was a mixture of blanks, empty rounds, and possibly live rounds. Mendoza declined to comment on how the live rounds went on set. The collected evidence will be sent to the FBI’s crime lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis, he said.
Other items collected from the set included clothing, accessories, and three firearms. One of them is a long Colt revolver, which, according to authorities, was used in the shooting. The rest were a single-action revolver, which may have been modified, and a plastic rifle, described as a revolver.
“We’re not at this stage yet,” Carmack-Altvis said of the possibility of bringing charges against any member of the Rust crew.
“If the facts and the law support the accusations, then I will start the prosecution. I am a prosecutor who was elected partly because I do not make rash decisions and am not in a hurry to pass a sentence, ”she said.
Mendoza said the film industry has always followed safety procedures when it comes to regular firearms and auxiliary weapons, and it looks like there was “complacency” on the set of Rust.
“People who checked or held firearms when they were loaded, before they got to Mr. Baldwin – we are interviewing. [are] some additional questions we need to do, ”Mendoza said.
This update came just a day after the producers of Rust hired a well-known law firm to interview the cast and crew about the accidental filming on set.
The court documents were released on Friday to the show’s actor Alec Baldwin, assistant director Dave Halls handed over a loaded gun. Halls took a pistol from the cart where gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed had put it. Halls indicated it was safe to use just before Baldwin fatally shot Hutchins and wounded Sousa.
A search warrant filed with the Santa Fe court reveals that the assistant director was unaware that the rifle was loaded with live ammunition.
Halls was previously fired from the set of Freedom Paths in 2019 after a member of the crew suffered a minor and temporary injury from an unexpected pistol discharge, the project’s producer told NBC.
There were also reports that the gun that killed Hutchins was used by crew members for firing live ammunition… The wrapper was the first to report this detail.
In addition, a person familiar with the matter told NBC News that half a dozen crew members walked off the set of Rust to protest the working conditions just hours before filming began. Among their fears were multiple random bolts of the screw gun…