'Rust' investigation reveals more details - Albuquerque Journal

‘Rust’ investigation reveals more details

A sign indicates to film crews how to get to the set. This sign was near the Bonanza Creek Ranch, where a fatal shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin took place Thursday afternoon on the ‘Rust’ movie set. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Actor Alec Baldwin was sitting in a pew practicing a revolver cross draw while director Joel Souza “was looking over the shoulder of (cinematographer) Halyna (Hutchins), when he heard what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop.”

No film was being shot, because the crew on the set of “Rust” was setting up the scene for the one camera that was available. The rehearsal took place in a church building where actor Alec Baldwin was sitting on a wooden pew facing south, toward the camera and crew.

Souza told investigators the rehearsal entailed Baldwin cross drawing his weapon and pointing the revolver toward the camera lens.

Souza believed the gun being used in the rehearsal was safe. He recalled the phrase “cold gun” being used while the scene was being prepared, indicating the gun didn’t have live ammunition.

The new details of Thursday’s shooting that left Souza injured and Hutchins dead emerged in search warrant affidavits made public late Sunday.

Authorities were notified of the shooting just before 2 p.m. Thursday.

Hutchins, 42, suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and died after being airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital. Souza, 48, was wounded in the shoulder, hospitalized in Santa Fe and later released.

Baldwin, who fired the weapon, has said he is fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how the tragedy occurred.

Souza was interviewed Friday by a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office detective and said the day started late at the Bonanza Creek Filming Ranch outside Santa Fe because a camera crew had quit and another crew had to be found to help film the movie, according to the court documents.

Asked about employees’ behavior, Souza said, “everyone was getting along there were no altercations that took place to his knowledge,” the affidavit says.

Souza said he doesn’t believe members of the cast and crew are checked to ensure no one is taking live ammunition on set.

“The only thing checked are the firearms to avoid live ammunition being in them” he said, noting that “there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around a scene.”

Souza said they set up the scene and then broke for lunch away from the set. He wasn’t sure whether the firearm was checked again after the lunch break.

He told investigators that after the shooting, he vaguely remembers Hutchins grabbing her midsection. She “began to stumble backwards and was assisted to the ground.”

A script supervisor called 911 and told the operator, “We’ve had two people accidentally shot by a prop gun; we need help immediately.” She then told the 911 operator that assistant director Dave Halls was supposed to check the guns.

“He’s responsible for what happens on the set,” she said angrily.

Halls told authorities he did not know live rounds were in the prop gun when he gave it to Baldwin, court documents say.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Halls had been fired from a previous job after a gun went off on a set and wounded a member of the film crew. A return inventory details numerous items seized by investigators, including several revolvers, a fanny pack with ammo, spent casings, 14 swabs of suspected blood, clothing and video cameras and videotapes.

The investigator also interviewed cameraman Reid Russell, who was standing next to Souza and Hutchins when the shooting occurred. Russell said he had a lot of work to do after six crew members walked off the movie because of payment and housing issues.

Russell told authorities that he was away from the set for five minutes after lunch and that when he returned, Baldwin and the others already had the firearm, and he wasn’t sure whether the firearm had been checked during his five-minute absence.

“Reid was not sure why the firearm was discharged and just remembered the loud bang,” according to the affidavit. Asked about the behavior of those setting up the scene, Russel said, “everyone seemed to be getting along.”

No one has been charged in connection with the shooting.

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