SANTA FE – On a ranch in northern New Mexico, where poplars and dusty foothills have formed the backdrop to westerns since the 1950s, Alec Baldwin was making a new movie Thursday afternoon when his character, an outlaw -law, needed a gun.
An assistant director grabbed one of the three prop pistols that the film’s gunsmith had set up outside on a gray cart, handed it to Mr Baldwin and, according to an affidavit signed by Detective Joel Cano from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office yelled âCold gun!â – which was supposed to indicate that the gun contained no live ammunition.
When Mr Baldwin fired, law enforcement officials said, he punched and killed the film’s cinematographer and injured its director – and raised new questions about gun safety on sets shooting.
Deputy Warden “Did Not Know Live Ammunition Was In The Firearm” When He Handed It To Baldwin, Affidavit Says, Which Was Made As Part Of A Warrant Application search. The affidavit did not specify what type of ammunition the gun was loaded with.
The results were fatal: Halyna Hutchins, 42, the film’s cinematographer, was punched in the chest and airlifted to the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque, where she died, officials said. Joel Souza, 48, the director of the film, was hit in the shoulder and injured; he was taken to the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe and then released.
“There are no words to express my shock and sadness over the tragic accident that claimed the life of Halyna Hutchins, a deeply admired wife, mother and colleague,” said Mr Baldwin, 63. , in a press release. Friday statement on Twitter. âI am fully cooperating with the police investigation to explain how this tragedy happened and I am in contact with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son and everyone who knew and loved Halyna.
The plot of the film Mr. Baldwin was making, “Rust”, is based on accidental murder and its aftermath. Suddenly, the film set – at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County – became the scene of a real murder and a real investigation.
Juan Rios, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said on Friday afternoon that the investigation “remains active and ongoing” and that “detectives entered the film set today and continue to question witnesses potential “.
âWith regard to the projectile, the objective of the investigation is to find out what type it was and how it got there,â Mr. Rios said.
The affidavit stated that all three guns had been left on a gray cart outside the structure where Mr Baldwin was working on a stage “due to Covid-19 restrictions”. With the search warrant, detectives were looking for additional evidence that could help shed light on the events leading up to the fatal shooting: footage or videos captured during filming, computers and cellphones left on set, as well as other firearms and ammunition.
There were reports of social unrest on the set of the film, where Mr Baldwin was also a producer. Several members of the crew left the set earlier this week due to working conditions, according to several people familiar with the shoot.
Around noon on Friday, three private security guards stood at the locked gate to the Bonanza Creek ranch, telling reporters access to the property was restricted. Earlier today, several unmarked vehicles from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department and the Medical Examiner’s Office entered the site. Helicopters, apparently used by media outlets, sometimes flew overhead.
On film sets, safety protocols for the use of firearms are well established and straightforward: weapons should be closely managed by licensed gunsmiths, actors should be trained in gun and bullet safety. real should never be used.
Productions typically use real guns loaded with blanks, which can still be dangerous as they involve gunpowder, a cartridge, and paper or wax, which provide a realistic-looking flame and spark. (When people are injured by guns on film sets, it usually involves a burn to the hand, safety coordinators said.)
But in this case, it was obvious that something had gone seriously wrong, film security experts said. âProtocol had to be broken,â said Daniel Leonard, associate dean of Chapman University’s film school, which specializes in established procedures. “We’ll have to see what the details are, but the industry has a very specific set of guidelines to follow to prevent something like this from happening.”
Larry Zanoff, a film gunsmith who worked on the set of “Django Unchained” and was not involved in “Rust,” said that generally only blank ammunition – a bulletless casing – is sanctioned on a film set. The productions sometimes use propeller pistols, such as rubber pistols or replica pistols, but they often use full blast guns, he said.
“The safety instructions that we follow on television and on movie sets prohibit the use of live bullets on a set,” he said. A production will usually institute rules for maintaining a safe distance from the barrel of a gun, which is typically 20 feet, he added.
Mr Rios said Thursday evening that the sheriff’s office had not filed a complaint against anyone in connection with the shooting.
In a statement released Friday, the film’s production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, said, âThe safety of our cast and crew is a top priority for Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. While we have not been made aware of any official complaints regarding the safety of weapons or accessories on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and to provide mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time. “
In a statement, John Lindley, national president of the International Cinematographers Guild, and Rebecca Rhine, the organization’s national executive director, called Ms Hutchins’ death “devastating news.”
“Details are unclear at this time, but we are working to find out more and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,” their statement said. “It is a terrible loss, and we mourn the passing of a family member in our Guild.”
Mr. Baldwin, an Emmy Award-winning actor, has had a long career in film, theater and television. In one of his most well-known roles, he played Jack Donaghy, an oblivious and domineering television executive on the sitcom “30 Rock,” which aired on NBC from 2006 to 2013.
Serious accidents on television and film sets, some involving firearms, have occurred with some regularity over the past decades. In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally shot himself in the head and died while playing Russian roulette on the set; the force of the explosion of a blank shell fractured his skull.
And there was an accident on a film set in 1993 in which actor Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed in a scene where a bullet lodged in the barrel of a pistol was shot. been discharged with a blank cartridge. “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza”, Shannon Lee, sister of Brandon Lee. tweeted late Thursday.
Simon Romero reported from Santa Fe, Julia Jacobs from New York and Glenn Thrush from Washington, DC Alyssa Lukpat, Michael Levenson, Brooks Barnes, Graham Bowley and Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.