Assistant director on Alec Baldwin film Rust admits not properly checking gun

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
This photo is believed to be the last one taken of Hutchins on set and shows the chapel where she was later accidentally shot dead - Facebook/Serge Svetnoy
This photo is believed to be the last one taken of Hutchins on set and shows the chapel where she was later accidentally shot dead - Facebook/Serge Svetnoy

An assistant director who handed actor Alec Baldwin the gun he used to kill cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in an apparent on-set accident admitted to investigators that he failed to properly check it for live ammunition, according to court documents released on Wednesday.

Dave Halls told detectives in New Mexico that he recalled seeing only three dummy rounds in the chamber of the .45 revolver that Baldwin was using to rehearse a scene for the western Rust, but still declared the weapon “cold” - or safe.

“He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum,” the affidavit from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office states, referring to a safety procedure the movie’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, should have performed to allow him clear sight of every chamber.

Ms Hutchins, 42, the film’s director of photography, died after being struck by a bullet fired by Baldwin, also the movie’s producer, on Oct 21. Director Joel Souza was injured.

After the fatal shot was fired, Halls said he retrieved the weapon from a pew of a chapel being used for the filming and asked Ms Gutierrez to open it. He said he then recalled seeing five rounds in the chamber, four with holes on the side to signify they were dummies, but one - a shell casing - with no hole.

“David advised the incident was not a deliberate act,” according to the affidavit, filed by investigators to support a search warrant for the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch.

'Lead projectile' recovered from scene of Alec Baldwin shooting - Sam Wasson /Getty Images North America
'Lead projectile' recovered from scene of Alec Baldwin shooting - Sam Wasson /Getty Images North America

In her own interview, Ms Gutierrez, 24, an inexperienced armourer working only her second movie, told detectives she earlier checked all the ammunition to ensure it was not live, and that the weapon was placed in a locked safe over a crew lunchbreak. But at the same time, she conceded: “The ammo was left on a cart on the set, not secured.”

The developments came on the same day that Sante Fe sheriff Adan Mendoza and the county’s District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said at a press conference that legal action against Baldwin remained a possibility.

Asked if anyone had been ruled out from facing charges, Ms Carmack-Altwies said: "All options are on the table. No one has been ruled out at this point."

Mr Mendoza said: "He's obviously the person that fired the weapon. So we're going to keep interviewing and getting the facts of his statements, and the evidence and the case, and possible witnesses or anyone that has information.

"So, right now, he is an active part of this investigation."

Mr Mendoza added: "I think there was some complacency on this set. And I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico. We know there was one live round. We’re going to determine whether there were other live rounds. Right now we’re going to determine how those got there, why they were there, because they shouldn't have been there.”

Criminal charges 'on the table' in Alec Baldwin shooting, prosecutor says - Twitter
Criminal charges 'on the table' in Alec Baldwin shooting, prosecutor says - Twitter

It was reported this week that crew members used the gun that killed Hutchins for “target practice” with live rounds between shoots.

The sheriff added that Baldwin and others known to have handled the weapon immediately before the fatal shot - Mr Halls and Ms Gutierrez - had been “cooperative” with investigators.

More than 600 items of evidence were recovered from the scene and were being analysed by the FBI, Mr Mendoza said, including clothing, three weapons and about 500 rounds of live and blank ammunition. Only one of the guns was functional, he added.

Alec Baldwin could face legal action - Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP
Alec Baldwin could face legal action - Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP

Investigators were also in possession of the lead slug that killed Hutchins, fired from what the sheriff said was a Pietta .45 Long Colt revolver and recovered by hospital staff from Mr Souza’s shoulder, along with its spent shell casing.

The production of Rust was already plagued with problems when the shooting occurred: six members of the camera crew walked off set the same day over safety concerns. Rust’s producers, meanwhile, have retained a law firm to conduct its own inquiry and sit in on interviews with crew members.

The movie’s head electrician, Serge Svetnoy, posted what appears to be the last-known photograph of Hutchins on the set. It is not clear how long before the shooting it was taken, but shows a scene in the same chapel where she was killed.

“I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Halyna during this fatal shot… I was holding her in my arms while she was dying,” Mr Svetnoy wrote in an emotional Instagram tribute to his friend, who was married with a nine-year-old son.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting