Search warrant reveals grim details of ‘Rust’ shooting and Halyna Hutchins’ final minutes

Actor Alec Baldwin was practicing removing a revolver from its holster and aiming toward the camera during rehearsal for the movie “Rust” when director Joel Souza heard “what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop,” according to a search warrant obtained by the Los Angeles Times that also provided grim new details about the final minutes of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ life.

Souza said someone identified the weapon as a “cold gun,” meaning it did not have any live rounds, according to the warrant, filed by a detective with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. But instead, the gun discharged, striking Hutchins in her chest and Souza in his right shoulder. Hutchins was pronounced dead at an Albuquerque hospital.

Souza’s statement to the detective offered a new window into the on-set shooting Thursday that has left Hollywood reeling and calling for safer working conditions on sets.

The shooting took place after six members of the film’s crew walked off the set after complaining to the production company about payment and housing, camera operator Reid Russell told Det. Joel Cano, according to the search warrant. The document offers a more detailed chronology of an unfolding tragedy.

The day started late because the production hired another camera crew and was working with only one camera, Souza told the detective.

Souza said three people were handling the gun for the scene: armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, then assistant director Dave Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin, according to the warrant.

Halls had taken one of three prop guns set up by Gutierrez Reed on a cart left outside the structure because of COVID-19 restrictions, the warrant said. Halls did not know live rounds were in the gun when he handed it to Baldwin, and Halls yelled “cold gun,” according to the search warrant.

Souza said cast and crew were preparing the scene before lunch but then had a meal away from the rehearsal area around 12:30 p.m., according to the search warrant. When they returned, Souza said, he wasn’t sure if the gun was checked again, the warrant said.

“Joel said as far as he knows, no one gets checked for live ammunition on their person prior and after the scenes are being filmed,” the search warrant said. “The only thing checked are the firearms to avoid live ammunition being in them. Joel stated there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around the scene.”

When they came back from lunch, a creeping shadow prompted the camera to be moved to a different angle, Russell said in the search warrant. As Baldwin was explaining how he was going to draw his gun and where his arm would be when he pulled the gun from the holster, it discharged, Russell said.

Souza said he was looking over Hutchins’ shoulder when the gun discharged. Hutchins grabbed her midsection, stumbled backward and “was assisted to the ground,” Souza told the detective.

The search warrant said Reid recalled hearing a loud bang, seeing a bloody Souza and hearing Hutchins say that she couldn’t feel her legs.

The accident came after crew members raised concerns about safety conditions on set. Two “Rust” crew members told the L.A. Times that, less than a week earlier, a stunt double had fired two accidental prop gun discharges after being told the gun was “cold.”

Rust Movie Productions said in a statement that the safety of its cast and crew is “the top priority” and it was not aware of official complaints raised about weapon safety and will conduct an internal review. On Sunday, the production company said it would shut down the film’s production during the investigation but did not rule out restarting.

Hutchins’ death follows other accidents that have happened on TV and movie sets. Some in Hollywood and the greater community have called for sets to no longer have operational firearms, especially as muzzle fire could be added through post production. A California state senator has announced plans to propose legislation to ban live ammunition and firearms capable of shooting live ammunition on Hollywood productions in California.

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