On October 21, a woman died on the set of the Western Rust after a prop gun Alec Baldwin was holding accidentally discharged in the course of rehearsing a scene. The victim, Halyna Hutchins, was a cinematographer on the movie, which was filming at Bonanza Creek Ranch, in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. Hutchins was taken to the hospital by helicopter immediately following the shooting and was pronounced dead after her arrival. Director Joel Souza sustained injuries as well and was hospitalized.
Civil suits have been filed among crew members, but criminal responsibility has yet to be determined. The Santa Fe County sheriff’s office is currently investigating the incident and has not yet charged anyone involved. “We’re trying to determine right now how and what type of projectile was used in the firearm,” spokesperson Juan Rios told the New York Times in the shooting’s aftermath. Affidavits released on October 27 may help answer that question: Dave Halls, an assistant director on the movie, told investigators that he failed to inspect every round in every chamber of every gun on set. The gun Baldwin was using turned out to have a “lead projectile” inside, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza explained: “We would consider it a live round, a bullet, live, because it did fire from the weapon and obviously caused the death of Ms. Hutchins and injured Mr. Souza.”
“We also believe that we have the spent shell casing from the bullet that was fired from the gun,” Mendoza reportedly added.
In December, the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office issued a search warrant for Baldwin’s phone, which the actor finally turned over on January 14. In an Instagram message explaining the delay, Baldwin stated that he wants to comply with the investigation, but “this is a process where one state makes a request of another state.” The actor is reportedly living in New York, where the Suffolk County sheriff’s office has to enact the warrant should it hold up in this other state. “Any suggestion that I am not complying with the requests, or orders, or demands, or search warrants for my phone, that’s bullshit. That’s a lie,” he said, adding that he will “one thousand percent” comply once everything is sorted out between the states.
Here’s everything we know about the shooting and its fallout.
As a rule, live ammunition isn’t used on movie sets.
Although props departments typically use real guns on movie sets — models, cap guns, and nonfunctional firearms may also be options — as a rule, they do not use live ammunition. The New York Times reports that investigators removed around 500 rounds from Rust’s set, but usually, production uses blanks to re-create the effect of firing a gun, sometimes with added powder to amp up the effect of the blast onscreen. But blanks can do damage, too — particularly when fired at closed range. Production teams usually set strict rules around the use of prop firearms, but accidents happen nonetheless: Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Bruce Lee, died while filming The Crow in 1993 after a bullet stuck in a prop gun’s barrel discharged along with a blank. And in 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum fractured his skull playing Russian roulette with a blank, dying days later.
Questions have surfaced as to how Baldwin wound up with a “hot” gun in the first place.
In his affidavit, released on October 24, Souza said the gun went off during rehearsal of a scene where Baldwin, seated on a church pew, pulls his firearm from its holster and aims directly “towards the camera lens.” The director explained that he and Hutchins were checking the camera angle at the time, and assistant director Dave Halls told Baldwin he was using a “cold gun” just before the shot. On October 25, the Associated Press reported that Halls had been fired from the movie Freedom’s Path in 2019, after “a gun was unexpectedly discharged” and injured a crew member. Rust’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, told detectives she also checked the weapons to make sure they contained no live ammunition.
In a November 1 interview with Fox News, Halls’s attorney, Lisa Torraco, suggested questions about the A.D.’s track record were misplaced, because firearm safety fell outside his purview. “He’s not responsible for checking [the gun]” she said. “That’s not the assistant director’s job. If he chooses to check the firearm because he wants to make sure that everyone’s safe, he can do that, but that’s not his responsibility.” Torraco pointed to the armorer’s assistant, whom she said brought the gun to set. Attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed, meanwhile, maintained in a statement that their client “has no idea where the live rounds came from,” and that “ultimately this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced.” In an interview on NBC’s Today Show, attorney Jason Bowles — representing Gutierrez-Reed — raised the possibility of sabotage, speculating that someone may have placed a live round in a box of dummy rounds to make a statement about conditions on set.
Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has filed suit against the ammunition supplier.
On January 12, 2022, Gutierrez-Reed filed a complaint against PDQ Arm and Prop and managing member Seth Kenney, who reportedly supplied ammunition for the film. As reported by NPR, the filing claims that Gutierrez-Reed used rounds provided by Kenney and PDQ on the day of the shooting, which the suit claims were labeled “dummy rounds .45 LC.” “Hannah relied upon and trusted that Defendants would only supply dummy prop ammunition, or blanks, and no live rounds were ever to be on set,” reads the complaint.
Members of the Rust crew have since spoken up about an allegedly high-stress and chaotic filming process.
In the weeks after the shooting, a chaotic picture formed of the environment on set. According to the L.A. Times, half a dozen union camera-crew workers had walked offset in protest of working conditions just hours before Hutchins was shot. There had been two misfires of the prop gun on Saturday and one the week before, one source told the Times. “There should have been an investigation into what happened,” an unnamed crew member said. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.” The Times reports that someone texted the production manager: “We’ve now had three accidental discharges. This is super unsafe.” An actor who knew Hutchins, Jonathan McAbee, subsequently told People that the cinematographer stayed on set after the walkout because she “felt the responsibility for everyone else’s job there.”
In follow-up interviews with the Times, 14 crew members spoke to on-set confusion. “It always felt like the budget was more important than crew members,” Lane Luper, the A-camera first assistant, said. “Everything was about the schedule and the budget.” Luper said production reneged on promised hotel rooms for the camera crew (an issue Hutchins allegedly resolved by making cuts to her own expenses) and that people weren’t being paid.
Other crew members have denied these claims. On November 2, Baldwin reposted a series of messages from costumer Terese Magpale Davis refuting the idea that Rust had been a mess. “I’m so sick of this narrative,” she wrote, per Baldwin’s screenshots. “I worked on this movie. The story being spun of us being overworked and surrounded by unsafe, chaotic conditions is bullshit.” Davis said the crew mostly worked fewer than 12 hours per day and had hotel rooms, and that producers held regular safety meetings.
Baldwin says he didn’t pull the trigger.
For his part, Baldwin called the shooting a “one-in-a-trillion episode” during an exchange with paparazzi outside his home in Vermont on October 30. “We were a very, very, you know, well-oiled crew shooting a film together, and then this horrible event happened,” he said, adding that Hutchins was his friend. “I’m not allowed to make any comments because it’s an ongoing investigation. I’ve been ordered by the sheriff’s department in Santa Fe.” These were his first public comments since the day after the shooting, when he addressed the incident on Twitter.
“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,” he wrote. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her 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.”’
During a lengthy sit-down interview airing on December 2, Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos that “the trigger wasn’t pulled” on the hot gun that killed Hutchins. “I didn’t pull the trigger,” he said. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never.” Stephanopoulos noted that some have argued that “you’re never supposed to point a gun on anyone on a set, no matter what.” Baldwin responded, “Unless the person is the cinematographer who’s directing me at where to point the gun for her camera angle. That’s exactly what happened.”
Baldwin also said that there was never supposed to be a real bullet on set at all. “Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” he said. “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.” Baldwin said that after the gun was fired, he thought Hutchins fainted. “The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me till probably 45 minutes to an hour later.” Baldwin added that he supports “anything that will take us to a place where this is less likely to happen again.”
Torraco — the attorney for Rust’s assistant director — backed up these claims on Good Morning America on Thursday, saying that not only did Baldwin not pull the trigger, but he didn’t even have his finger on the trigger. “The entire time, Baldwin had his finger outside the trigger guard, parallel to the barrel,” Torraco said. “He told me since day one he thought it was a misfire.”
The script supervisor is suing Baldwin.
On November 17, Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell filed a lawsuit against Baldwin, the film’s producers, six production companies, an armorer, and the first assistant director working on the film on claims of assault and emotional distress, Deadline reports. In her complaint, Mitchell, who is represented by Gloria Allred, asserts that the set failed to follow safety protocols for the use of firearms. According to the suit, the upcoming scene “did not call” for the cocking and firing of a gun. Baldwin allegedly accepted the gun from the assistant director instead of the armorer — the only person on set qualified to verify that a firearm is a “cold gun” and therefore safe to use. Mitchell claims that no such verification happened on the set of Rust, and that Baldwin should have assumed the gun handed to him was loaded unless proven otherwise.
Baldwin countered with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, calling Mitchell’s argument “completely illogical.”
Hutchins’s family is also suing Baldwin.
On February 15, attorneys for the cinematographer’s husband and son also filed a lawsuit against Baldwin — as well as Rust’s producers and a handful of crew members, including Halls and Gutierrez-Reed — for wrongful death. Variety published a copy of the complaint, which alleges the production violated “at least 15 Industry Standards” for set safety, and that Baldwin personally broke gun-handling protocol. The suit accuses him of reckless discharge of a deadly weapon (“a criminal offense in the State of New Mexico,” per the filing) and says the production cut corners to cut costs and would up creating a hazardous environment. The suit cites text messages and emails from crew members complaining of accidental discharges and haphazard explosives. The Guardian reports that Baldwin and the producers said the complaint should be dismissed and instead routed through New Mexico’s worker-compensation program.
Hutchins’s family refutes Baldwin’s claim that he was not responsible for the shooting.
Almost three months after Baldwin’s televised interview with ABC News, Matt Hutchins, Halyna’s husband, spoke out in an interview with Hoda Kotb for Today. “The idea that the person holding the gun and causing it to discharge is not responsible is absurd to me,” he said, reacting to Baldwin’s assertion that he was not responsible for Halyna’s death. He added that seeing Baldwin give a nationally televised interview so soon after his wife’s death made him feel “angry.”
He explained, “I was just so angry to see him talk about her death so publicly in such a detailed way and then to not accept any responsibility after having just described killing her.”
Though Matt did not rest sole blame on Baldwin, he did imply that the entire production was seriously flawed, noting, “There were a number of industry standards that were not practiced, and there’s multiple responsible parties.”
In a new filing, Baldwin seeks to avoid responsibility for Hutchins’s death.
In response to several damage-seeking lawsuits, Baldwin’s lawyers filed a new and expansive arbitration demand against the Rust producers on Friday. The filing claims Baldwin isn’t responsible for Hutchins’s death, citing a clause in his Rust contract, and seeks coverage for Baldwin’s ongoing legal fees.
In response to the crew members who previously alleged that Rust producers cut costs at the expense of safety, the filing claims Baldwin only had creative control as a producer and that he wasn’t in charge of budgets, ammunition checks, or otherwise ensuring safety on set. In response to Matt Hutchins’s lawsuit, the filing alleges that Halyna gave Baldwin the instructions about positioning and firing the gun.
“In giving and following these instructions,” the filing says, “Hutchins and Baldwin shared a core, vital belief: that the gun was ‘cold’ and contained no live rounds.”
Baldwin’s lawyers emphasize his shock and horror over the incident, while also insisting upon his innocence. “This is a rare instance when the system broke down, and someone should be held legally culpable for the tragic consequences,” wrote Luke Nikas, one of Baldwin’s lawyers. “That person is not Alec Baldwin.”
The Rust Production company has been fined for lack of firearms safety on set.
On April 20, it was announced that the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau had fined Rust Movie Productions $136,793 for a lack of firearms safety — reportedly the maximum fine allowed.
Over the course of their investigation, the bureau reportedly found that there was no on-set protocol to ensure that no live rounds were on the film set, and that multiple complains from crew members about gun safety were ignored. “What we had, based on our investigators’ findings, was a set of obvious hazards to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to act upon those obvious hazards,” said bureau chief Bob Genoway of the investigation.
A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed said that the report found that the armorer “was not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively, despite her voiced concerns.”
The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office released hundreds of pages worth of documents relating to the shooting.
Following the report form the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office, which has been investigating the case, released a huge amount of documents relating to the case. Among the documents are interviews of Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed, as well as reports from the Chief Medical Investigator on the case and others.
The sheriff’s office also released body cam footage of deputies responding to the scene last year. In video released, an officer approaches Baldwin, who seems eager to comply with the authorities. At one point, he can be seen telling other crew members, “She’s handing me an empty gun, and we only would put loads when we were ready to shoot.”
The documents included a 200-page summary of the investigation thus far, which show that the Sheriff’s Office has reviewed text messages from those involved, including some messages from Gutierrez-Reed that suggest she used live ammunition on a previous movie shoot. The summary also stated that Gutierrez-Reed was told in the aftermath of the shooting that the prop master, Sarah Zachry, had found “bad ones” — meaning live rounds — in the box of ammunition. “Hannah advised she thought it meant possibly one or two rounds from the box, but Sarah told her it was more than half of the box,” the summary read, per Los Angeles Times.
The investigation is still ongoing.
This article has been updated.