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‘Rust’ Shooting: Santa Fe Sheriff Says ‘Live’ Bullet Killed Halyna Hutchins

Lead projectile was recovered from director Joel Souza’s shoulder, sheriff says

A “live” round was used in the gun that killed “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last Thursday, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Fe County District Attorney said in a press conference on Wednesday.

A “lead projectile” was recovered from director Joel Souza’s shoulder, Sheriff Adan Mendoza said, and that it is “apparently” the same round that killed Hutchins. A mix of live rounds along with dummy cartridges and blanks were recovered from the set, approximately 500 rounds of ammunition in all.

Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies added that it was too early to determine whether criminal charges would be filed over Hutchins’ death but that no one has been ruled out to face charges at this point. “We are not at that juncture yet. If the facts and evidence support charges, we will initiate charges at that time,” she said.

Mendoza said Wednesday that Baldwin, assistant director David Halls and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had all given statements to authorities and were cooperating with the investigation. A pair of search warrants from authorities revealed that the film’s assistant director, Dave Halls, had grabbed a gun from a table laid out by armorer Gutierrez-Reed and yelled “cold gun” prior to handing it to Baldwin. The warrants also detailed that Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he was “pointing the revolver towards the camera lens” when the firearm discharged.

The sheriff said Wednesday that a limited amount of people were in the vicinity of the actual accident, but that approximately 90 people were on set.

Asked to clarify the shocking fact that a live bullet killed Hutchins, Mendoza added that until it was proven by the crime lab it is a “suspected live round,” but investigators were led to believe that it was a “live round” since it resulted in the death of Hutchins.

The sheriff and the DA would not comment specifically on the question of criminal negligence or other recent reports of unsafe conditions on set, but the sheriff added that he believed there was “some complacency on this set, and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry.”

Of the three guns recovered by detectives, the sheriff Wednesday said one was a plastic, non-functioning weapon and a second also appeared to be non-functioning. He further clarified following the previous warrants that there was no camera footage of the actual incident that killed Hutchins and injured Souza.

Industry standards have made clear that live ammunition is never to be on set, but the sheriff would not speculate at this time how that ammunition made its way to the set.

TheWrap reported earlier this week first that the gun that killed Hutchins had been used earlier that morning for a live-ammo target practice or for a practice called “plinking.” Halls was also reported to be fired from a 2019 film following a previous incident, and TheWrap reported Tuesday that Gutierrez-Reed, who had only worked on two other films prior to joining “Rust,” had an incident involving the actor Nicolas Cage on the set of the film “The Old Way,” including that the film’s assistant director was asked that Gutierrez-Reed be fired.

Investigators have confirmed that several members of the camera crew had walked off the set earlier that day after complaining about housing and payment and that a new crew had to be found to help film the movie.

Reid Russel, whom a search warrant identifies as a cameraman who was standing next to Hutchins and Souza as the gun discharged, said that the crew wrote a letter to the production over the disagreements and that after stepping out for five minutes after returning from lunch, the team was already in possession of the firearm preparing for the scene. He was unsure if it had been checked again in that time.

While speaking to police last Friday, Souza recalled standing over the shoulder of his cinematographer, Hutchins, while Baldwin was sitting on a wooden church pew and practiced cross-drawing his weapon, only to then hear what sounded “like a whip and then loud pop.” Souza then remembered Hutchins complaining about a pain in her stomach, grabbing her midsection and then stumbling backwards as she was assisted to the ground. He was briefly hospitalized for his injuries; Hutchins was declared dead later that day.