• The San Juan Daily Star

A lead projectile was recovered from ‘Rust’ director’s shoulder


The investigation into last week’s fatal shooting on a movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County is continuing.

By Julia Jacobs, Simon Romero and Graham Bowley


Sheriff Adan Mendoza of Santa Fe County said at a news conference Wednesday that the lead projectile Alec Baldwin fired from a revolver on the “Rust” film set, killing the film’s cinematographer and wounding its director, was recovered from the director’s shoulder and added that investigators believe they recovered more live rounds on the set.


Investigators also believe they have recovered the Colt revolver that fired the shot, Mendoza said, as well as about 500 rounds of ammunition from the set. The ammunition recovered included a mixture of blanks, dummy rounds and what the sheriff’s department suspects to be live ammunition, which it will send to the FBI crime lab for analysis.


“We have recovered what we believe to be possible additional live rounds on set,” he said.


The sheriff declined to comment on how live ammunition got there; typically, live rounds are not allowed anywhere on film sets. He described the gun that fired the fatal shot as a .45 Long Colt revolver, made by Italian manufacturer F.lli Pietta.


The shooting happened during a rehearsal for a scene in “Rust,” a Western in which Baldwin was playing an outlaw. Baldwin was practicing a scene with a gun he had been told did not contain live ammunition on the set when it went off, killing the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and wounding the director, Joel Souza.


Mendoza used the words “lead projectile” to describe what was recovered from Souza’s shoulder and said it was apparently the same round that had killed Hutchins. Asked if it was an actual bullet that had been fired — and not a blank — he said, “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.”


Over the past few days, questions have been raised about how the fatal shooting could have occurred if safety protocols had been followed properly.


“I think there was some complacency on this set,” the sheriff said. “Anytime firearms are involved, safety is paramount.”


The Santa Fe County district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, said at the news conference that the inquiry was continuing and that criminal charges were still possible. “If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time,” she said.


Mendoza said there were 16 people in the vicinity of where the fatal shooting took place, a set depicting a 19th-century wooden church. In total, there were about 100 people on set, he said.


All three people who had handled the gun were cooperating with law enforcement, Mendoza said. According to court papers, the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, prepared a table on which three guns sat; an assistant director on the film, Dave Halls, grabbed a revolver and declared it to be a “cold gun,” meaning that it had no live ammunition inside and was safe to handle. Then, Halls handed the gun to Baldwin, a detective wrote in an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant.


Baldwin had been sitting in a wooden church pew, rehearsing a scene that involved “cross drawing” a revolver and pointing it toward the camera lens, Souza told a detective investigating the shooting, according to court papers. When the gun went off, Hutchins was struck in the chest, and Souza was wounded in the shoulder.


Baldwin is an “active part of this investigation,” the sheriff said.


Detectives said that they recovered three revolvers, spent casings and ammunition — in boxes, loose and in a fanny pack — while executing a search warrant on the set, according to an inventory of the items. The inventory did not specify what kind of ammunition was found on the set.