Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office investigators have collected hundreds of rounds of ammunition — some suspected to be live — from the set of the Western film Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch, where authorities say award-winning actor Alec Baldwin discharged a firearm that caused a fatal shooting last week.

During a joint news conference Wednesday with the district attorney, an event attended by a throng of reporters, Sheriff Adan Mendoza offered new details on his agency’s investigation into the Oct. 21 shooting, which killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

Mendoza, who returned early from a vacation Saturday for a briefing on the case, said the investigation has raised concerns about how firearms were handled on the set.

“There was, at minimum, complacency on the set,” he said in an interview after the news conference. “… I think when real firearms are being used, safety is paramount.”

While Mendoza said no criminal charges have been filed in Hutchins’ death, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said “all options are on the table” and “no one has been ruled out at this point” — including Baldwin.

Investigators have recovered the firearm Baldwin discharged — an F.Lli Pietta .45-caliber long-range Colt revolver — and “the spent shell casing from the bullet that was fired from the gun,” Mendoza said at the news conference, adding, the “actual lead projectile that was fired has been recovered from Souza’s shoulder.”

The bullet hit Souza after it shot through Hutchins’ abdomen, the sheriff said.

Several other rounds of ammunition were loaded into the revolver’s cylinder, but Mendoza said he could not confirm whether those rounds were live.

However, the sheriff said several rounds suspected to be live were found on the set. “This investigation is active, so I won’t comment on how they got there. … That will be determined when the testing is done by the crime lab as to whether or not they are officially live rounds or not.”

Evidence in the shooting will be submitted to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., for analysis, he said.

The sheriff’s office has not confirmed multiple media reports of crew members using the revolver earlier in the day to shoot cans with live rounds. Mendoza said there are “facts and rumors floating around,” and it’s his investigators’ job to determine what is factual.

Minutes before the morning news conference began, the state Administrative Office of the Courts publicly released a new search warrant for a “prop truck” on the movie set where film workers said the revolver Baldwin discharged had been stored. Both Souza and armorer Hannah Gutierrez, who was handling firearms for the Rust production, told investigators there should not have been any live rounds on or near the set, according to the search warrant affidavit.

It was the third warrant the sheriff’s office has obtained for searches of the Rust set at the popular movie ranch south of Santa Fe.

The warrant indicates investigators are seeking evidence of anyone who might have had access to the revolver, a safe where firearms might have been secured, as well as any guns, ammunition, cameras or other digital devices in the truck.

‘A thorough and objective investigation’

“Over the last few days, our investigative team has been working diligently to conduct interviews, execute search warrants and collect and process evidence from the scene,” Mendoza told the crowd of reporters at Wednesday’s news conference, many from across the nation and around the world.

The case involving Baldwin — one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and the producer of Rust — has riveted readers and viewers, driving what a sheriff’s office spokesman called an insatiable appetite for new information by a variety of news media sources.

The Santa Fe Sheriff's Office holds a news conference on the prop firearm shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on the movie set of “Rust.” 

“During this process, we determined that there were a limited amount of movie set staff present in the area where the actual incident took place, although there were approximately 100 people on set,” Mendoza said. “Through the execution of search warrants, we have collected about 600 items of evidence. These include but are not limited to three firearms, approximately 500 rounds of ammunition and several pieces of clothing.”

Later, Mendoza said 16 people were in a church building at Bonanza Creek Ranch at the time of the shooting, and investigators have interviewed all of them. But there are many other cast and crew members who still need to be interviewed, he noted.

“We are working thoroughly to gather all the facts of the investigation, continue interviews and further analyze and process the evidence,” Mendoza said. “I want to ensure the victims, their families and the public that we are conducting a thorough and objective investigation.”

He said “it’s too early right now in the investigation” to comment on possible criminal charges.

Carmack-Altwies said her agency will work with the sheriff’s office to ensure the investigation is conducted “to the highest standards.”

“I speak to the prosecutorial perspective here, and I must emphasize that a complete and thorough investigation is critical,” the district attorney said. “We take the corroborated facts and evidence and connect it to New Mexico law, and we are not at that juncture yet.”

Aside from possible criminal charges, Baldwin and the Rust production company could face civil complaints over the shooting and other alleged safety issues on the set.

According to a certificate of insurance Business Insider obtained from the Santa Fe Film Office, the production has a total of $6 million in liability insurance protection.

The financial news site reported Rust was covered for up to $1 million in on-set injuries and damages, up to $1 million in workers’ compensation and an additional $5 million in commercial “umbrella” coverage.

Questions about gun checks

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Bonanza Creek Ranch at 1:48 p.m. Oct. 21 after receiving a call saying two people had been shot on a movie set, Mendoza recounted. The first deputy arrived at 2 p.m., and an ambulance arrived a minute later.



“During the initial investigation, it was determined that actor-producer Alec Baldwin was the person that fired the weapon,” the sheriff said. “We identified two other people that handled and or inspected the loaded firearm prior to Baldwin firing the weapon.”

Mendoza identified them as Gutierrez and assistant director Dave Halls, two workers on the set who have faced the heaviest criticism on social media for failing to ensure the revolver was empty.

Affidavits say Souza told investigators Gutierrez was expected to check the gun and Halls was expected to provide a second check before handing it to Baldwin. Halls had grabbed the revolver from a cart of weapons prepared by Gutierrez and gave it Baldwin, telling the star it was a “cold gun,” according to the documents.

Mendoza said Gutierrez, Halls and Baldwin “have been cooperative in the investigation.”

But it remains unclear how Gutierrez and Halls could have missed a live round in the revolver if they inspected it.

“The people that inspected or handled the firearm when it was loaded before it got to Mr. Baldwin were interviewed, and there’s some follow-up questions that we need to do,” Mendoza said. “So there’s further investigation, further interviews, and 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.”

According to the search warrant affidavit released Wednesday, Gutierrez told investigators she had checked the ammunition earlier Oct. 21 to ensure there were no “hot” rounds. As the crew broke for lunch, she said, the firearms were secured in a safe on the “prop truck.” However, she said, the ammunition was left unsecured on a cart on the set.

Souza told investigators he wasn’t certain if the gun Baldwin was using had been checked for ammunition again after lunch, the affidavit says.

Halls said he checks gun barrels for obstructions, and “most of the time there’s no live fire.”

“Hannah opens the drum and spins it, and I say, ‘cold gun’ on set,” he added, according to the affidavit. Before the rehearsal, he remembered seeing only three rounds in the revolver and should have checked them all, but he didn’t, he said, and he could not remember if Gutierrez had spun the drum for him.

Gutierrez had prepared a cart with three firearms for the rehearsal for a scene in which Baldwin was to sit in a wooden pew, facing the camera, before “cross drawing his weapon and pointing the revolver toward the camera lens,” court documents state.

As they rehearsed, Souza told investigators, Baldwin drew his gun and he heard “what sounded like a whip” and a loud pop. He looked back to see 42-year-old Hutchins holding her abdomen. She was transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she succumbed to her injuries.

Souza was treated at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and has been released.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Juan Ríos said one firearm found on the set was a modified revolver and a third was a plastic gun.

Former police officer and Georgia-based armorer Matthew Clanton said in an interview Wednesday it’s often common to have a modified gun on set. The modification usually prevents live ammunition from being loaded into the chamber: “It would only be able to accept blanks.”

After the gun was fired, Halls told investigators, Gutierrez opened the cylinder to show him what was inside, the search warrant affidavit says. He saw three rounds with holes in them and one without a hole and “no cap.”

Rounds with holes are often “dummy” rounds, or ammunition with no primer or gunpowder, Clanton said. It’s likely the last casing — the one without a hole — was left from the live ammunition that was fired, he added.

The process for checking guns is often tedious, time consuming and redundant, Clanton said, but when he’s on the job, he forces himself to diligently inspect every gun to ensure the correct ammunition is loaded and to prevent errors.

“Sometimes people get complacent, and they’re so used to it being clear,” he said. “The majority of people like me that do this for a living, we take that very, very seriously. It’s not just insurance and liability — it’s that we don’t want anybody to get hurt or killed.”

Troubles on the set

The fatal shooting of Hutchins, an up-and-coming cinematographer who leaves behind a husband and young child, came after a series of problems on the Rust set.

Sources close to the production have told news outlets it was the fourth time a gun had misfired in a few of weeks of filming. Some complained about other gun-safety issues and said workers on the set had loaded the revolver with live rounds to shoot at beer cans.

Crew members also complained about poor working conditions.

Souza told investigators several camera crew members had walked off the set the morning of the shooting amid a dispute over payments and housing issues, search warrant affidavits say.

After the walkout, the remaining crew had only one camera to use that day and was holding the rehearsal to determine how best to shoot the scene under the limiting conditions, Souza added.

News media have reported Halls, the assistant director, had faced complaints of unsafe practices on other movie sets. Mendoza said his investigators would look into those allegations.

“We definitely want to speak to anybody that has any information in reference to safety issues [on other movie] sets,” he said.

Carmack-Altwies said such information will play into her office’s legal analysis when it receives the sheriff’s investigation.

“It obviously could play into whether charges get filed or not,” she said.

(39) comments

Kirk Holmes

Here’s the bottom line folks. The Colt SAA revolver (Single Action Army for those that didn’t know what SAA stands for), and I’ll just leave it at that, only takes less than 1 second to flip open the “loading gate”, then a few more seconds to rotate the “cylinder” 6 times ….. click, click, click, click, click, click to check for any rounds (actual cartridges, or blanks - that can be dangerous at close range as well). Even repeating this process 3 times is easily done by a beginner within a 15 second “takt” / cycle time. Isn’t a few seconds worth a person’s life? If the “very last” person in “possession” of weapon cannot do this very simple process, then …… nevermind. I feel terribly bad for the victim(s), but just as bad for the actor. I cannot fathom how terribly bad he feels, and while I may have been critical of him in the name of gun safety, I hope he finds peace and recovers from this terrible accident and others may have learned from this, again, in the name of gun safety.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Khal Spencer

Tonight's Journal.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2441022/santa-fe-authorities-to-detail-investigation-into-movie-set-shooting.html

Affidavit: Gun on film set was not properly checked

Bill Hill

Maybe the DA will use her "restorative justice" system.

Angel Ortiz

Amazing how many detectives and gun experts come out of the shadows for this tragic event. Santa Fe has had several violent deaths this year and no one really cared. At best, these posts are ludicrous

Lupe Molina

How many rounds from shootings of local residents made it to the FBI crime lab in Quantico?

Comment deleted.
Lupe Molina

You're really dumb enough to blame liberals and then make a gun control argument that certain people shouldnt own guns. Wow. That's an especially American brand of stupid.

Lynn Glaze

Don't bring in the woman issue Khal, as I have been shooting from the age of 10 in a all military family, including myself. I agree on most of your comments, but not this one. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the difference between a fake and live bullet...Baldwin was the last line of defense. He used firearms in "The Red October." He should have at least looked in the cylinder before he fired.... a no brainer.

dave barry

A no brainer is 100% correct, however you must have a brain in order for that logic to work. Newbie armorer with little experience and a headstrong actor are the reason this happened.

Robert Fields

You must be an eye witness to be able to make that kind of assertion, Barry. Are you an eye witness to blame the incident that cost a woman her life on a “headstrong actor”? No blame for the AD that other crew refused to work with who had been fired from another film set for other gun issues?

It’s at least Hall’s and Gutierrez’s fault. They were the parties responsible for the gun and who declared it “cold”. Baldwin may also be culpable depending on decisions he made as producer.

But unless you were there, I kind of doubt you know enough to blame the death and injury on only the armorer and Baldwin.

Emily Hartigan

Lynn, agree on the woman issue, disagree on having an actor mess with a gun.

He's an actor, not someone using a gun as a gun.

But the armorer's job is to make sure guns aren't used as guns on a set. The gun-toting' cowboy selfies alone suggest a serious lack of judgment.

Robert Fields

Except there weren’t supposed to be any bullets at all in the gun. The AD called it a “cold gun” when he handed it to Baldwin. If the gun was supposed to be totally empty, the difference between actual deadly rounds and blanks (which can also be deadly) is meaningless. There shouldn’t have been anything at all in the cylinder and everyone who handled that gun is at fault since nobody could have checked thoroughly. Had any of them done the proper inspection and seen anything at all, the death and injury could have been prevented.

Joe Brownrigg

There have been many conjectures about this event. We probably are just shooting in the dark here...until more is investigated.

Several people here have cast aspersions on the armorer. From what I've read, she prepared the guns, they were used for target practice, and then one of three available guns was handed to Baldwin and he was told by Dave Halls that it was a "cold" gun. So there were many points at which mistakes and negligence ensued. As has already been said, there were many negligent moments, inviting the fatal mistake. There is no evidence of lack of training of the armorer, but there were several instances of inattention and/or negligence. "Trained" persons make mistakes due to inattention. It's not their "training" that is in question. It is their inattention. To say it again, there were many instances of inattention.

Many directors have discontinued the use of "real" guns and "real" ammunition of any kind. Indeed, often the special effects department can create a better illusion of "real" guns and "real" noise from "firing" a weapon. These directors have decided that "real" guns and ammunition are just too dangerous on the set. I would wager more directors will do this in the future.

Robert Fields

There have been official reports that the AD declared the gun “cold”, though, and calling it that meant it should have had nothing at all in it. No blanks, no dummy/nonfiring loads, and certainly no real bullets. It was supposed to be a completely empty gun.

From that, at a minimum we do know the AD declared the gun cold without checking it because had he checked it properly he wouldn’t have declared it cold because it was anything but. We also know Baldwin didn’t properly check the gun or he would have discovered it wasn’t cold. I think we are pretty safe in those conclusions seeing how the AD picked up the gun and handed it to Baldwin to rehearse with while proclaiming it cold.

What we don’t know is custody of the weapons, if the armorer knew the guns had been used for target practice, if she had inspected them after, etc. I haven’t speculated on any of that. The only speculation I’ve done, and I stated it clearly that it was speculation, is the type of gun called out in the reports seemed like it was a black powder revolver which would likely have been modified to load “cowboy ammunition” so blanks could be used in it, and that modification does hide the rear of the cylinder and makes it just slightly harder to visually check if any rounds of any kind are loaded. Both Khal Spencer and KOAT have called it a slightly different model that wouldn’t have needed that modification and would have been easier to verify visually if any cartridges were actually loaded.

I’ve seen the reports about using CGI to simulate gun blasts and think that’s the cure. I saw another article about deaths and injuries from guns on movie/TV sets and it’s pretty shocking. Prop guns could even get loaded with weights on springs to simulate recoil when the trigger gets pulled. There would still be a need to check all weapons anyway simply because even plastic prop guns are designed to look real so a real weapon substituted in could still be mistakenly used on set. It’s a hard line to walk. Make it appear too safe and you’ll get more actors, AD’s, and armorers get complacent and not do the proper checks even with dummy prop guns.

With the reports of the movie guns being used for target practice that morning, I’d think absolutely forbidding any guns and live real ammo on sets is something that should happen immediately, though. It should be a termination offense. Prop guns should never see real ammo in them ever once they become prop guns. That all needs to stop because it is starting to look like that target practice that morning is what allowed everything else to happen to take a young woman’s life.

But we don’t know the details and everything could turn on details we don’t know.

Khal Spencer

Speculating is easy. Doing the full investigation and writing it up is the real work. I agree that this is complicated and the Pickle Barrel summary is kinda sketchy.

I don't think we know what the training was of the armorer. It doesn't look like there is a formal AAS in Armorer Science, so to speak, so one has to dive into the armorer's training and work history. From the one site I visited, it looks like the armorer carries a heavy load of responsibility.

https://www.careersinfilm.com/armorer/

You are spot on regarding inattention. In some jobs that are high risk, a two person rule is in effect. This could have been done properly if two people had to verify the gun was really cold. That wasn't done. I've had my own mishaps due to inattention, fatigue, or having two things on my mind at once. Fortunately, I never hurt anyone else and only have an A/C separation, rebuilt rotator cuff, and broken clavicle to show for it (yeah, all bicycle crashes!).

The idea of shooting at the camera or another actor for special effects would seem risky and should not be done. We should be able to find a better way such as a remotely operated camera or filling in the blast and smoke later in the special effects Dept.

As others have said, the real value in agonizing over this event is that anyone who owns guns, visits folks who own guns, or otherwise is around guns needs to recognize all the elements of gun safety. Short of a Raising of Lazarus Moment, these events cannot be run in reverse gear.

Khal Spencer

The point was not that a woman can't shoot or be a force to be reckoned with on the set. I know plenty of workplace examples to the contrary. Its that she was new to the game and on a set with a bunch of men; whether sexism factored into the situation is my question.

She said in an interview, written up previously, that she was more than a little nervous given her newness to being an armorer. So is it possible that she did not push back enough against everyone else, especially given the other problems that seemed to consume this filming? Obviously, someone forgot to "safe" those guns before the #$%^ AD failed to check the firearm and handed it to Baldwin. Why?

No offense, but I think we are both free to conjecture to our heart's content.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Comment deleted.
Robert Fields

Richard, you seem to forget that the movie industry is about intentional illusion. It was somebody, supposedly trained, not being able to tell the difference between a real bullet and an empty drum (or bothering to check) that helped cause this. The gun was called out as “cold”. There wasn’t supposed to be anything in that gun. No blanks. No dummies. No real bullets.

In a thorough investigation, each shell should be opened and checked for a real primer and real gunpowder.

Sounds like at least one conservative here shouldn’t be able to possess a firearm either.

Lupe Molina

Pulled out all the stops for the cameras, must be election season! Wish we had this sort of response when residents are victims.

Robert Fields

We will have to get official word to know but there could be a complicating factor since the Pietta appears to be a black powder revolver. It may have been modified to use regular shells which then hides the primer end of the shell casings unless the firing pin plate is removed to inspect. Here’s a link to a modification kit and you can see how the plate totally covers the primer end of the shells. The cylinder has to be rotated out and that plate removed if there is to be a visual inspection at that end.

https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1973292272

I need to say I’m no gun expert and have no knowledge of the gun used on set but I believe loading black powder weapons is a fully manual process and it would be faster to load blanks (and regular shells) if the gun had this modification.

https://www.wikihow.com/Load-a-Black-Powder-Revolver

Obviously the inspection done before the shooting was inadequate. If this modification was in place, it would have made it slightly more difficult to inspect since the firing pin plate needs to be removed.

Khal Spencer

If it is a Pietta single action Long Colt, that's a single action cartridge-loaded revolver, not the old style where you had to first ram in the powder and then the bullet. probably something like this. It was black powder, but in a cartridge.

http://piettausa.com/Gunfighter-45LC-475-Checkered-Black-Rubber-Grip_p_920.html

45 LC

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.45_Colt

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Robert Fields

Looks like you are right, Khal, which unfortunately is even more damning that nobody spotted the live real bullet round since there wouldn’t have been a plate covering the primer end and an extra step to verifying there was nothing in the gun at all.

https://www.koat.com/article/gun-used-rust-movie-santa-fe-alec-baldwin-safety-halyna-hutchins-deadly-shooting-tragic-albuquerque/38085703

When photos are shown of the actual gun it will be obvious. The gun you and KOAT are saying doesn’t have the tool to set the ball under the barrel and gives the black powder revolvers a characteristic look.

Kirk Holmes

Meanwhile in Las Cruces ….. Bruce Willis ….. for the love of God, check your weapon for yourself! I know you will, you’re smarter than that!

Stefanie Beninato

That looks like one of the best attended news conferences in terms of governmental employees. Wouldn't two or three have done?

Emily Koyama

They wanted their "moment" on national tv.

Lupe Molina

Mendoza is running for reelection.

Mike Johnson

It is becoming obvious that this film crew, in its entirety it seems, are a bunch of irresponsible, immature children when it comes to guns. I doubt even one of them has ever taken a gun safety course, like was required of my children in Texas before they could get a hunting license. Someone needs to pay for this attitude on this set.

Joe Brownrigg

Mike, what is "obvious" to you is not at all "obvious." Armorers DO have more training with guns than your children. Calling people names, although it is your forte, is not warranted.

Chris Mechels

Joe, now you are making assumptions. Checking the statues that has the EDD (Economic Development Department) paying to "train" those working on films in New Mexico there is NO control of the training content, so we have no idea of what "armorers" training is. Our state OSHA is also uninterested. It seems we have the "wild west" in more ways than one, throwing money at film companies with little to no oversight.

We can also be a little suspicious of the Sheriff's "investigation" has his crew gets the WORST police training New Mexico, right here in Santa Fe. More wild west...

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]

Joe Brownrigg

Film companies train armorers, not EDD. Every film company has a high vested interest in proper training for their armorers. Unless you can prove otherwise in this case, I think it is safe to say you are the one making assumptions.

I agree that the Sheriff's people are suspect, but my original posting had nothing to do with him or his officers.

Richard Reinders

Joe there is 6.5 shootings a year average on movie sets 50 deaths and 150 wounded since 1990, not sure how good the training is with those stats. And these numbers are what has been reported, I wonder how many misfires on set with no injury happened in that time I would also guess hundreds.

Jake Jason

The "armorer" on Rust was an inompetent, negligent, wholly unqualified joke, to the degree that it's legitimate to ask what her ACTUAL duties were. My bet is that she was there to handle guns, but not firearms.

Khal Spencer

The only way to get to the bottom of this is to examine the credentials of someone who has the title of armorer. And in this case, the individual. The site I looked at did not look like there were formal credentials, such as obtaining a Range Safety Officer credential or a certified course in weapons expertise. More like an apprenticeship, which could be fine or not so fine. So its kinda up in the air, Joe. Someone could be excellent, or someone coulda just slid through.

https://www.careersinfilm.com/armorer/

The other issue is this armorer was a woman and a rookie armorer. One has to ask whether she got pushed around or intimidated by the more senior people on the set. I was a newbie once in my profession and it can be intimidating.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.