‘Rust’ Assistant Director: I Didn’t Check Alec Baldwin’s Gun—but ‘Should Have’

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Handout via Reuters
Handout via Reuters

The assistant director of Rust admitted to authorities that he didn’t properly check the Colt revolver he handed to Alec Baldwin, who then fired a live round that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, a newly unsealed search warrant reveals.

Dave Halls allegedly told investigators that typically he would “check the barrel for obstructions,” and then armorer Hannah Reed-Gutierrez “opens the hatch and spins the drum,” before he yells out “cold gun” on set. But before the tragic Oct. 21 shooting, Hall said he “could only remember seeing three rounds” of dummy bullets in the chamber.

“He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum,” the warrant, obtained by The Daily Beast, states.

After the shooting, Halls said they opened up the gun and found four dummy rounds and one spent live round.

“He advised he could only remember seeing at least four dummy casings with the hole in the side, and one without the hole,” the warrant says. “He advised this round did not have the ‘cap’ on it and was just the casing. David advised the incident was not a deliberate act.”

Earlier Wednesday, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza confirmed that Baldwin fired a live round on the set, and investigators have recovered “possible additional live rounds” from the scene.

After the shooting, doctors removed a projectile from Souza’s shoulder, which Mendoza described as “the same live round that was fired from the revolver by Mr. Baldwin.”

The gun used in the tragic accident has also been seized, he said.

“This is the firearm we believe discharged the bullet,” Mendoza said at a press conference. “We also believe that we have the spent shell casing from the bullet that was fired from the gun. The actual lead projectile that was fired has been recovered from the shoulder of Mr. Souza.”

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Cops found some 500 rounds of ammunition on the Rust set, which Mendoza said was “a mix of blanks, dummy rounds, and what we are suspecting were live rounds,” later adding, “I think there was some complacency on this set.”

In response to a question about what live ammunition was doing on set in the first place, Mendoza replied, “The investigation is active, so I won’t comment on how they got there.” There were roughly 100 people on set that day, but only about 16 of them were in close proximity to the shooting, Mendoza said.

The weapon with which Baldwin accidentally shot Hutchins, 42, was a .45 Long Colt revolver, and there “was other ammunition” in the gun at the time, said Mendoza, who did not elaborate on what type of ammunition it was.

Two people handled the weapon before giving it to Baldwin: Reed-Gutierrez and Halls, who have both been cooperative with police, according to Mendoza.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, at least two prior gun safety incidents occurred on the set of Rust prior to Hutchins’ death. Criminal charges have not been ruled out at this point, and “all options are on the table,” said Mendoza.

One former colleague described Reed-Gutierrez to The Daily Beast as young and inexperienced, with a history of safety mishaps on The Old Way, the only other film she’d worked on as head armorer.

Another source told NBC News that Halls “did not maintain a safe working environment” on the set of the film Freedom’s Path, from which he was fired in 2019 after a crew member was wounded in a gun accident, according to CNN.

Tobey Bays, a prop master and set artist who also serves as the business agent for IATSE Local 44, told The Daily Beast last week that the Rust job was “lower budget” and used a local crew without any members of his union.

Bays said the industry’s top armorers are near fanatical about safety, and will “only put the amount of blanks into the gun that are meant to be shot in the scene.”

The production company behind Rust said in a statement that the gun in question contained blank rounds. But an email sent to Local 44 members by Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Pawluc described the incident as “an accidental weapons discharge” in which a “live single round was accidentally fired.”

There is “no precedent whatsoever” for a prosecution like this, Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said on Wednesday.

“It is a very complex case,” she continued. “It will require lots of legal research and analysis and review. That’s what my team is here for and that’s how we’re assisting the sheriff’s [office] at this point. That said, again, we don't know how that's going to play out until we get that complete investigation.”

As one of the film’s producers, Baldwin could face steep civil liability in the lawsuits that will almost certainly follow. Criminal charges against Baldwin appear highly unlikely, but the situation is still fluid, according to Mendoza.

“He’s obviously the person that fired the weapon,” said Mendoza. “So we’re going to continue interviewing and getting to the facts of his statements and the evidence and the case and possible witnesses or anybody that has any information. So right now, he is an active part of this investigation.”

Baldwin has been cooperative with detectives, according to Mendoza. In a phone call last Friday, Matthew Hutchins, Hutchins’ widow, told The Daily Beast that Baldwin was “being very supportive” in the days following his wife’s death.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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