Authorities have determined that the projectile that fatally wounded film photographer Halyna Hutchins was a lead bullet, one of about 500 cartridges found from the set of the movie “Rust,” Santa Fe County authorities announced Wednesday.
During a press conference, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said the deadly projectile was found from Director Joel Souza’s shoulder at a hospital in the area.
“We also believe we have the used grenade shell from the bullet that was fired from the gun,” Mendoza said.
This grenade launcher, along with the lead projectile and “possible additional live rounds” recovered from the set, will be submitted to the FBI’s Crime Laboratory in Quantico, Va.
Hutchins was fatally shot by what Mendoza described as a Colt 45 revolver fired by actor and producer Alec Baldwin on the set of the film outside Santa Fe, NM, last week.
The hundreds of rounds won on the set were a mix of “blanks, dummy rounds and what we suspect were live rounds,” according to Mendoza. Additional shots were found inside the weapon Baldwin fired, according to Mendoza, although it was not clear whether these projectiles were shiny or sharp ammunition.
Mendoza said a total of three firearms were found from the set. The weapon Baldwin fired was an FD Pietta Colt 45 revolver. The other weapons were a single-acting army revolver with a modified cylinder that might not be able to fire shots, and a useless plastic Colt 45 revolver. Baldwin played an outlaw in 1880s Kansas in “Rust,” with popular border firearms.
Mendoza also said his office is investigating rumors that crew members may have participated in recreational shootings on the ranch’s property.
“I would urge anyone who has any information that a target that was practicing or a firearm was fired away from the film to practice or for any reason, to contact the sheriff,” he said.
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 filmed. Mendoza was joined by the New Mexico First Judicial Dist. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies, who will ultimately decide what criminal charges will be brought in the case.
While acknowledging that the case was legally “complex”, Carmack-Altwies declined to comment on any allegations or provide a timeline for when she could reach a decision. The Sante Fe County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the shooting is active, according to Mendoza, who said his detectives have several witnesses they still need to question.
“If the facts and evidence and the law support the charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time,” Carmack-Altwies said. “I am a prosecutor who was elected in part because I do not make hasty decisions and I do not rush to judge.”
When Carmack-Altwies was asked if Baldwin could potentially be charged with criminal charges, Carmack-Altwies said “all options are on the table at this time,” stressing that she would not speculate on what charges might follow. or what persons might face them.
Carmack-Altwies said there was no precedent for a case like this in Santa Fe County.
The news conference marked the first time the two leading law enforcement officials in the case have addressed the public since the fatal shooting – a tragedy that comes amid a broader account of working conditions and security on filming.
At least three people, including Baldwin, handled the gun Thursday before the shooting, according to a search statement filed by the Sheriff’s Office. First assistant director Dave Halls retrieved one of three weapons that had been prepared by the production’s armor master, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, from a rolling prop car and brought it to Baldwin, according to the statement.
Halls allegedly shouted “cold gun,” meaning the weapon was not loaded when he handed it to Baldwin, according to the statement.
The shooting took place when Baldwin, who was sitting on a chair in the old wooden church, was practicing removing the revolver from the holster and pointing it at the camera, according to the statement.
The film’s director, Joel Souza, 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 beaten in the chest. Souza told the detective that Hutchins grabbed her middle part and began “stumbling backwards,” according to the statement. 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 transported to a hospital with a trauma center in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead.
“Rust” was just the second feature film that Gutierrez, 24, had worked on as the main armor, meaning she was in charge of monitoring gun safety and use on the set. Questions have been raised about Gutierrez-Reed’s lack of experience and her recent behavior in handling weapons on the set.
According to search warrants, she left three weapons on a rolling cart outside the church grounds at noon Thursday. Souza, the film’s director, told an investigator from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office that several people had handled the weapons and that he was not sure if anyone had checked them for safety after the group returned from lunch.
A few hours before the shooting, several members of the crew left in protest of what they said were long hours, long commutes and long waiting times for pay slips, as well as a lack of security protocols that resulted in several unintentional discharges of support pistols before 1 p.m. the fatal incident last Thursday.
Security 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 shooting for the low-budget independent film when production stopped.
Halls, the first assistant director, has also been investigated before. In 2019, he was fired from the movie “Freedom’s Path” after a crew member suffered a minor and temporary injury when a prop pistol was “unexpectedly dropped”, according to a producer from the movie, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to that comment.
Baldwin, Halls and Gutierrez Reed “have been cooperating with the investigation and have made statements,” according to Mendoza.
Mendoza said it would be up to the district attorney to decide whether allegations made about unsafe practices and negligence on other sets that Halls and Gutierrez-Reed previously worked on would be taken into account when assessing possible charges. .
“We will follow up on some of the statements made that there were other incidents,” Mendoza said, urging anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office.
On Tuesday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham suggested that the state could push to adopt stricter security protocols for productions filming in New Mexico, where production has become an integral part of the state’s economy in recent years.
“I think there was some complacency on the set and I think there are some security issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico,” Mendoza said.
Times staff writers Meg James and Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.
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