Assistant director who gave actor prop gun did not know it was loaded with live rounds, search warrant says
Alec Baldwin was handed a loaded weapon by an assistant director who indicated it was safe to use in the moments before the actor fatally shot a cinematographer, court records released on Friday show.
The assistant director did not know the prop gun was loaded with live rounds, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court.
The cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was shot in the chest. The director, Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded, the records show.
The warrant was obtained on Friday so that investigators could document the scene at the ranch where the shooting took place. It notes that Baldwin’s blood-stained costume for the western film Rust was taken as evidence, as was the weapon that was fired.
Investigators also seized other prop guns and ammunition that were being used during shooting of the film, starring Baldwin.
Earlier on Friday, Baldwin described the killing as a “tragic accident”. Baldwin was performing at the time of the shooting, the sheriff’s office said. It was unclear how many rounds were fired, and little was known about the weapon.
“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. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter.
A sheriff’s spokesman, Juan Rios, said detectives were at the set on Friday morning gathering evidence and information.
No immediate charges were filed, and Baldwin was permitted to travel, he said.
“He’s a free man,” Rios said.
Guns used in making movies are sometimes real weapons that can fire either bullets or blanks, which are gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but no deadly projectile. However, even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic wadding from the barrel that can be lethal at close range. That proved to be the case in the death of an actor in 1984.
In another on-set accident in 1993, the actor Brandon Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a prop gun, and similar shootings have occurred involving stage weapons that were loaded with live rounds.
Gun-safety protocol on sets in the US has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran director of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions was behind the camera because that person is in the line of fire in scenes during which an actor appears to point a gun at the audience.
Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Souza, 48, who was wounded in the collarbone area, was taken by ambulance to a medical center.
“This investigation remains open and active,” Rios said in a statement.
One of Hutchins’ final social media posts was a photo of the Rust actors standing together in solidarity with crew members. She belonged to the IATSE union, which represents crew members. The union is to vote soon on a new contract with producers after threatening to strike in recent weeks over issues including long hours and on-set safety.