Actor Alec Baldwin fired a 45 calibre Colt pistol loaded with a live lead bullet in last week’s accidental fatal shooting on the New Mexico set of his movie Rust where filmmakers showed “complacency” toward safety, authorities said yesterday.
The accusation came as the person in charge of weapons on the movie set told investigators she checked guns but found no “hot” rounds during a break before the fatal shooting last week.
According to court documents filed yesterday, crew member Hannah Gutierrez, who was the armourer, also said that ammunition was not secured during the lunch break last Thursday on the set near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza and District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told a news conference that while no charges have been filed, they are not ruling out that possibility in the shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal.
Sheriff Mendoza said authorities have collected 600 pieces of evidence, including three firearms, 500 rounds of ammunition and several pieces of clothing and accessories in the ongoing investigation, with some evidence being sent to an FBI crime lab in Virginia for analysis.
“All options are on the table. No one has been ruled out at this point,” DA Carmack-Altwies said, referring to potential criminal charges.
Authorities have the firearm used in the shooting, Sheriff Mendoza said, and have recovered the bullet from the shoulder of director Joel Souza, who was wounded but later released from the hospital.
Sheriff Mendoza said it appears the same bullet struck Mr Souza and Ms Hutchins.
The sheriff said “possible additional live rounds” were recovered from the set and would be tested by ballistics experts.
The ammunition recovered included blanks, dummy rounds and suspected live rounds, he added.
Sheriff Mendoza said the gun was an F Lli Pietta Long Colt revolver.
“It’s a suspected live round that was fired but it did fire from the weapon and it did cause injury. That would lead us to believe it was a live round,” he said.
Authorities had not previously said whether the ammunition was live or dummy bullets or the blank cartridges often used on movie sets.
The sheriff said Mr Baldwin has been cooperative in the investigation.
“He’s obviously the person that fired the weapon,” he said. “Right now, he is an active part of this investigation.” Asked about the use of real weapons on a movie set, the sheriff said: “I think the industry has had a record recently of being safe. 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.”
The shooting has sent shockwaves through Hollywood, prompting a debate about safety protocols in film and television – including whether certain types of guns used as props should be banned – and working conditions on low-budget productions.
Before the incident, camera operators had walked off the set in protest against working conditions, according to the affidavit.
Authorities have said in court filings that Baldwin was handed what he thought was a “cold” or safe gun by the film’s assistant director David Halls, who took it from a cart used by Hannah Gutierrez, who was employed to oversee firearms safety.
Baldwin (63) is a co-producer of Rust, a Western film set in 1880s Kansas, and plays an outlaw grandfather of a 13-year-old boy convicted of an accidental killing.
Production on the Bonanza Creek Ranch, near Santa Fe, has been halted.
Baldwin was drawing a revolver across his body and pointing it at a camera while rehearsing when the weapon fired, according to court documents. There is no video footage of the incident, Sheriff Mendoza said.
The film’s producers have hired the law firm Jenner & Block to investigate the shooting. The film’s production team said Jenner “will have full discretion about who to interview and any conclusions they draw”.