Authorities believe a lead bullet removed by doctors from the shoulder of “Rust” director Joel Souza is the same one that struck and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and was fired out of a gun shot by actor Alec Baldwin on the New Mexico set of the film last Thursday. That bullet, along with 500 blanks, dummy rounds, and suspected live rounds are among the evidence that has been collected by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department as part of its ongoing investigation into the fatal incident.
“I think the facts are clear: A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin, the weapon is functional and fired a live round, killing Ms. Hutchins and injuring Mr. Sousa,” Sheriff Adan Mendoza said during a Wednesday press conference.
No charges have been filed as of yet. Mendoza said made sure to specify that much of the information he shared will need to be confirmed through additional interviews with the 90 “Rust” crew members, plus additional and forensic and ballistics tests conducted at the FBI Laboratory.
“If the sheriff’s office determine during our investigation a crime has occurred and probable cause exists, an arrest or arrests will be made and charges will be filed,” he said. “Otherwise we will complete our investigation and forward the full investigation to the district attorney for review.”
New Mexico 1st Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said it’s too early to determine if criminal charges will arise out of the fatal incident. “It’s a very complex case,” she said during the Wednesday press conference. “It will require lots of legal research and analysis and review, and that’s what my team is here for and that’s how we’re assisting the sheriff at this point.”
There were a “limited” number of crew nearby during the fatal incident, which occurred during a Thursday rehearsal on the set of the Western. Mendoza said Wednesday that his office has identified two other people “that handled or inspected the loaded firearm prior to Baldwin firing the weapon,” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed and assistant director David Halls.
A “Rust” call sheet obtained by IndieWire identifies Reed as the property key assistant/armorer. A Facebook page under the name Hannah Gutierrez appears to have been deleted, but Google’s cache reveals its owner identified as the head armorer at Bonanza Creek Ranch.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a podcast interview, reported that the 24-year-old Reed recently completed her first film as head armorer, “The Old Way” starring Nicolas Cage. In the “Voices of the West” podcast interview, she said that her father Thell Reed, a veteran Hollywood armorer and firearms consultant, had trained her from a young age.
The responsibility of safety on set does not fall to one single person; production safety is generally something viewed in the industry as a priority that is under the purview of everyone, starting at the top.
“The people that inspected or handled the firearm when it was loaded, before it got to Mr. Baldwin, we’re interviewing and there’s some follow-up questions,” Mendoza said. “We’re going to determine exactly how that happened and if they should have known there was a live round in that firearm.”
As far as possible criminal culpability, “no one has been ruled out at this point,” Carmack-Altwies said. Mendoza said Baldwin is an “active part of this investigation,” who, like “everyone” else has been cooperating with investigators.
While initial interviews with those closest to the incident have helped guide police during these early days of the investigation, Mendoza said it’s going to take time to interview the approximately 90 crew that were on set the day of the shooting.
Authorities recovered a total of 500 rounds of ammunition from the set, which includes a mix of what Mendoza described as “blanks, dummy rounds, and what we are suspecting [are] live rounds.”
The weapon fired by Baldwin was an F.Lli Pietta Colt .45 revolver, Mendoza said. F.Lli Pietta is an Italian company known best for producing functional replicas of historic guns that are used in Westerns. Two other prop weapons that were in close proximity to the incident were also recovered by police, what Mendoza described as “a single-action Army .45 revolver” and “a plastic, non-functioning revolver.”
Authorities obtained a search warrant for “Rust” camera footage, but Mendoza said none exists that captured the shooting.