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Assistant Director On Santa Fe Film Set Admits He Didn't Fully Check Gun Prior To Fatal Shooting Of Cinematographer, Search Warrant Reveals

Film camera sits amid a desert background
Movie camera on a Santa Fe set in 2018
(Chris Murray via Unsplash)
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Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was apparently killed by a single lead bullet that struck her chest last week on the Santa Fe set of the movie “Rust.” And there are new questions about whether the gun was inspected carefully.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies declined to comment on whether any criminal charges will be filed in this case other to say that “all options were on the table.”

It’s still unclear how a bullet ended up in actor Alec Baldwin’s gun. It is also believed the same bullet that killed Hutchins also wounded the film’s director, Joel Souza.

“We're going to try and determine exactly how that happened. And if they should have known that there was a live round in that firearm,” Santa Fe Sheriff Adan Mendoza said at the news conference.

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Soon after that news conference, the sheriff released a new search warrant raising fresh questions about whether the gun was checked before it was given to Baldwin.

According to the warrant, assistant director Dave Halls told investigators that he should have checked all of the chambers of the gun “but didn’t.” Halls also said he “couldn’t recall” if the gun’s barrel was spun to check to see if other chambers had a round in them.

After the incident, Halls said an inspection of the gun showed there were as many as five chambered rounds in the gun, not three, which he initially recalled.

Hannah Gutierrez, the prop person in charge of weapons, told authorities that no live ammunition is ever kept on set. But that statement was directly contradicted by Sheriff Mendoza, who said at the news conference that 500 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the set — a mix of blanks, live rounds and dummy rounds — which look like bullets but can’t be fired, and they appear to be more live rounds. Sheriff Mendoza said all that evidence would be turned over to the FBI’s Crime Lab for analysis.

Since Hutchins was killed, there have been several calls to ban the use of real weapons on movie sets — and any kind of live round.

When asked about the entertainment industry and gun safety, the sheriff said:

“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 investigation continues into how a bullet ended up in that weapon.

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