The cast and crew of the film “Rust” converged around cameras in the church. It was rehearsal time.
An assistant director grabbed one of three prop guns from a cart outside and brought it into the building. He yelled “cold gun” – indicating it was not loaded – and handed it to Alec Baldwin, who was dressed in Western garb.
The 63-year-old actor pulled the trigger and the gun went off, striking cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza, who was behind Hutchins, in the shoulder.
Cast and crew scattered from the building as a set medic tried to stop the bleeding and others frantically dialed 911, one of them cursing the assistant director while on the line with dispatch.
Hutchins, 42, died after being airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital. Souza, 48, was hospitalized in Santa Fe and released Friday.
Deputies recovered a single bullet casing and Baldwin’s bloodied Western outfit as evidence.
“The Assistant Director did not know live rounds were in the prop gun when he had given the prop gun to the actor Alec Baldwin,” an investigator wrote in court records.
Those records detail what led up to the deadly incident at Bonanza Creek Ranch and 911 calls paint a picture of the chaos that followed as crew members summoned emergency personnel.
In one call, a woman identifying herself as a script supervisor tells dispatch, “We’ve had two people accidentally shot by a prop gun; we need help immediately.”
“Was it loaded with a real bullet?” a dispatcher asks.
The caller replies, “I don’t … I can’t tell you that … And this (expletive) AD that yelled at me at lunch – asking about revisions, this mother (expletive) – he’s supposed to check the guns, he’s responsible for what happens on the set.”
The woman continued, “We were rehearsing and it went off, and I ran out, we all ran out.”
Nobody has been charged in the incident and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. Crews were filming “Rust” on Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe at the time. “Rust” is a Western centered around a teen’s flight from prosecution for an accidental killing.
On Friday, the makeshift Western town was all but empty as bright yellow crime scene tape cordoned off the dusty old church and a lone deputy’s vehicle idled nearby.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that there had been prior prop gun misfires on the set and tensions had been rising for days over working conditions.
A half-dozen camera workers walked off the set in the hours leading up to the incident and were replaced by nonunion members, according to the newspaper.
“We, along with the entire film community in New Mexico, are saddened by the tragedy that happened on the set of ‘Rust’ yesterday. We send our deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Halyna Hutchins and are keeping positive thoughts for a complete recovery for Mr. Joel Souza,” the New Mexico Film Office said in a statement Friday. “The safety and well-being of all cast, crew and filmmakers in New Mexico is a top priority at all times.”
According to a search warrant affidavit filed Friday in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court:
Deputies responded around 1:50 p.m. to an accidental shooting inside an Old West-style building at Bonanza Creek Ranch. Hutchins was transported by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she died, and Souza was taken to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center.
Deputies learned the armorer on set had laid out three prop guns on a cart outside the building. The assistant director grabbed one of the guns and brought it to Baldwin, who was inside with the cast and crew.
The assistant director yelled “cold gun” and handed it to Baldwin before the actor fired the gun once, hitting Hutchins and Souza. The armorer was given back the gun, took out the single casing and gave both to deputies once they arrived.
The gun and “other prop-ammunition” was placed into a deputy vehicle.
“Due to filming equipment being at the scene, affiant would like to confirm if the incident that took place was or wasn’t recorded,” a deputy wrote in the complaint.
Baldwin, who was dressed in Western-style clothing, changed into street clothes and left the scene. His outfit appeared to have blood stains on it and was given to deputies.
Photos taken by the Santa Fe New Mexican on Thursday showed a distraught Baldwin talking on the phone after the incident and doubled over, his hands on his knees, in a parking lot near deputy vehicles.
Baldwin went on Twitter Friday morning to say he is heartbroken.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” Baldwin posted on Instagram Friday morning. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred … ”
In his post, Baldwin said he is in touch with Hutchins’ husband, “offering my support to him and his family.”
“My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna,” he wrote.
The movie, produced by Baldwin, also stars Baldwin and Jensen Ackles, among others.
It tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who must fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather, played by Baldwin, after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.
Journal city editor Martin Salazar and Journal staff writer Dan McKay contributed to this report.