Everything we know about last week’s fatal shooting in New Mexico
Last Thursday, director of photography Halyna Hutchins died and director Joel Souza hospitalized in a shooting in New Mexico on the set of the Western film ‘Rust’ after a live round fired from a prop gun by the film’s star and producer Alec Baldwin accidentally hit them.
Police have filed no charges in the shooting. Baldwin said in a statement he is fully cooperating. “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 tweeted Friday. “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.”
Production on Rust has paused in order to comply with the shooting investigation and to provide counseling to people working on the film.
Hutchins, 42, was a Ukrainian filmmaker who started as a journalist before moving to Los Angeles. She was a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory, and her previous credits include fest films like Darlin’ and Archenemy. She was one of American Cinematographer magazine’s 2019 “Rising Stars of Cinematography.” She is survived by her husband Matt and a 9-year-old son.
“Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words,” her husband Matt Hutchins wrote on Twitter Friday. “Our loss is enormous, and we ask that the media please respect my family’s privacy as we process our grief. We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life.”
As Hutchins’ family and friends mourn her loss, attention now turns to the shooting investigation, as many wonder how this could have ever happened in the first place. Here’s what we know about what happened.
The shooting happened at 1:50 p.m. MT at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set of the film, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office statements provided to entertainment website Vulture. The Los Angeles Times reported the shooting happened when Baldwin was rehearsing a scene that involved shooting a gun outside a church on the set.
Before rehearsing the scene, the tech crew told Baldwin the gun had no ammunition, according to court records obtained by the Associated Press. Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the film’s armorer, reportedly placed three guns on a cart near where the scene was taking place, according to those same documents. Assistant director Dave Halls took one of those guns to Baldwin, not knowing the gun had live rounds in it, according to a search warrant obtained by the AP.
Baldwin took the gun out of its holster twice while rehearsing for the scene. The second time, the gun went off, with ammunition reportedly hitting Hutchins near her shoulder and then hitting Souza. It’s unclear how many times Baldwin shot the gun.
Baldwin was “distraught and in tears while on the phone” outside the sheriff’s office, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
A helicopter took Hutchins to the University of New Mexico hospital, where they pronounced her dead, according to the sheriff’s office. An ambulance took Souza to a local hospital. As of Friday morning, Souza was out of the hospital, according to Deadline.
The sheriff’s office said it’s investigating the incident as a real shooting and that the gun used was a prop firearm. Detectives are currently trying to determine what kind of round was in place, how the weapon was loaded, and what precautions were in place on set to prevent something like this from happening.
There’s a dispute between the sheriff’s office and the prop workers union International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 44 on what “live round” even means. The union uses that term to designate a gun loaded with any material, whether real ammunition or blanks, while law enforcement strictly uses that term to refer to a gun loaded with real ammunition. Industry standards specify that blank rounds are still deadly, and that film crews and actors must treat all guns as if they were fully loaded.
The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee allows live ammunition on rare occasions as long as the film takes precautions ahead of time and actors only shoot the guns in specific locations that allow guns.
“We haven’t even begun the forensics on that issue,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson told Deadline about what type of round was in place.
Rust was just the second film as head armorer for the 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who told the Voices of the West podcast in September she almost didn’t take her first job, as head armorer on the Nicolas cage film The Old Way, because “I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but doing it—it went really smoothly.”
Reed is the daughter of armorer Thell Reed, who has worked on films like L.A. Confidential, the 3:10 to Yuma remake, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Django Unchained and was the gun coach for Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
She told the podcast that “loading blanks was like the scariest thing” to her in that first job.
Behind the scenes
An accident like this was bound to happen, according to some crew members who spoke out after the shooting. There were numerous concerns about gun safety on the Rust set, according to the Los Angeles Times. On October 16, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds from a gun after being told it had no ammunition in it, according to crew accounts in the Times. There were no subsequent safety meetings or investigations after that incident, according to the Times, and two other anonymous crew members claimed in Consequence that Halls, the AD who brought Baldwin the gun, had a history of ignoring safety protocols.
Rust Movie Productions LLC said the company was “not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set,” according to a statement to Vulture.
Six crew members also walked off set in protest for an unrelated issue the morning of the shooting, according to the Los Angeles Times. They were reportedly protesting having to stay in Albuquerque, 50 miles from the set, and protesting alleged long hours and pay issues. Hutchins had reportedly asked for better conditions for her film crew.
After the walk-off, the film hired non-union camera workers to replace the IATSE union members who left. According to a crew member, this was another example of “corners being cut” on production, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Rust Movie Productions LLC said it will conduct its own investigation along with the police investigation.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office took the gun fired by Baldwin, the cart holding the guns and other “prop ammunition” from the set, according to Deadline. The law enforcement agency obtained a warrant on October 22 to document the scene, according to the AP. The affidavit for the search warrant names Reed and other crew members. Investigators are also trying to look at weapons and weapon ownership documents, production equipment, memory cards from cameras and cast and crew members’ phones, as well as Baldwin’s bloody clothes.
Investigators interviewed Baldwin and Reed the night of October 21, according to Deadline.
Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened on a film set. The most well-known example is what happened on the set of The Crow in 1993. Brandon Bruce Lee, the late son of Bruce Lee, died in an on-set shooting. The gun contained blank rounds, but hadn’t been properly cleaned of the dummy rounds from a previous scene. When an actor fired the gun, the blank propelled the dummy round out of the gun, hitting and killing Lee. Police found that death was because of negligence, but Lee’s mother filed a negligence lawsuit against The Crow’s director, producers and prop contractor. They settled the case out of court.
Shannon Lee, Brandon’s sister, tweeted Thursday from the account she runs in honor of her late brother:
“Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on “Rust”. No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period. 💔”
Many directors, stars and union members discussed the shooting immediately after it happened, most notably director James Gunn, who cautioned against blaming Baldwin for Hutchins’ death:
“Quit turning the loss of a talented young woman’s life political. No one should be blamed for this until there is an investigation into what happened & saying otherwise makes you look like a moron. (And this includes all the people blaming specific crew members),” he tweeted.
So far, the only film or show to enact stricter precautions as a result of the shooting is ABC’s The Rookie. Showrunners for the Nathan Fillion cop drama said in an October 22 statement that “all gunfire on set will be Air Soft guns with CG muzzle flashes added in post. There will be no more ‘live’ weapons on the show. The safety our [sic] cast and crew is too important. Any risk is too much risk.”