The deadly chain of events on set that led to Alec Baldwin being handed a gun with live ammunition and accidentally shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins have become clearer after it emerged last night the actor fired a live round, believing it to be a blank.
Baldwin, filming a scene inside an Old West-style church, aimed and fired towards a camera operated by Hutchins, striking her in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder.
After firing the shot, Baldwin was heard saying: ‘In all my years, I’ve never been handed a hot gun.’
Experts yesterday told DailyMail.com safety on set is usually extremely tight with live bullets never used in filming and it remains unclear why a firearm loaded with live ammunition was on the Rust set at all.
A warrant released on Friday revealed the gun was laid out by armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and handed to Baldwin by assistant director Dave Halls, who told him it was ‘cold’, a phrase used to signal to cast and crew the gun is safe to fire for the scene. But how did this deadly chain of events unfold?
After firing the gun, Baldwin’s immediate reaction was to ask why he’d been handed a ‘hot’ gun – meaning one containing live bullets (pictured, Baldwin doubled over in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s offices)
An inconsolable Alec Baldwin is shown, left, yesterday outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office after accidentally shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, right
Baldwin was handed a gun with live ammunition
Minutes before the accident, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed laid out three prop guns on a cart outside the filming location, a search warrant released on Friday said.
First assistant director Dave Halls picked up one of the firearms – a vintage-style Colt revolver, DailyMail.com has exclusively learned – unaware it was loaded with live bullets, a search warrant said.
‘Cold gun!’ shouted Halls before handing the gun to Baldwin, using the phrase to signal to cast and crew that the gun was safe to fire for the scene, the warrant said.
Baldwin, filming a scene inside an Old West-style church, then fired a live round towards the camera, accidentally killing Hutchins as she filmed him, and injuring director Joel Souza, who stood behind her.
A search warrant released Friday said that armorer Hannah Gutierrez (left) laid out three prop guns on a cart outside the filming location, and assistant director Dave Halls (right) grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin
An image taken on the set of Rust shows cast and crew members receiving a safety briefing before filming stunts. The image was uploaded to Instagram a week ago
The warrant said that a single bullet struck Hutchins in the chest, and then struck director Joel Souza in the shoulder as he was standing behind her, injuring him, suggesting the bullet traveled all the way through Hutchins’ body.
After firing the gun, Baldwin’s immediate reaction was to ask why he’d been handed a ‘hot’ gun – meaning one containing live bullets.
The gun that fired the fatal shot was a vintage-style Colt revolver, DailyMail.com has exclusively learned.
Hutchins was airlifted to the hospital but was pronounced dead. Souza was taken to the hospital by ambulance but was released on Thursday evening.
After the shooting, the armorer took possession of the gun and a spent casing, which were turned over to police, along with other prop guns and ammunition used on the set.
Baldwin also changed out of the Western costume he was wearing, which was stained with blood, and turned it over to police.
The warrant was obtained Friday so that investigators could document the scene at the ranch where the shooting took place.
The difference between live rounds and blanks is the tip of the cartridge where the lethal bullet is contained is not there on a blank. Sometimes they are replaced with cotton or paper. Dummy bullets, unlike blanks, look like ordinary bullets but aren’t meant to contain the metal bullet tip either
The gun that fired the fatal shot was a vintage-style Colt revolver, (pictured) DailyMail.com has exclusively learned
Rust was armorer Gutierrez-Reed’s second ever film
Rust was Gutierrez-Reed’s second ever film as armorer after completing her first movie on The Old Way, starring Nicolas Cage.
She revealed after filming ended she ‘wasn’t sure’ if she was ‘ready’ when she took the job.
‘I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but doing it, it went really smoothly,’ she said in the a podcast interview last month.
Gutierrez-Reed, 24, is the daughter of legendary Hollywood armorer and firearms consultant Thell Reed, who trained her from a young age.
Halls is a veteran assistant director with scores of credits on productions involving prop guns, including Fargo, The Matrix Reloaded, and the TV cop comedy Reno 911.
In 2000, Halls was the second unit’s first assistant director on The Crow: Salvation, the sequel to the film in which Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee was killed in an on-set firearms mishap in 1993.
Neither he nor Gutierrez-Reed immediately returned messages from DailyMail.com late on Friday.
Neither has been charged or named as a criminal suspect in the case, though a police investigation is ongoing.
Why was live ammunition on set at all?
Live ammunition is never usually used on film sets and Baldwin’s shooting and killing of a cinematographer a ‘total mystery’, a Hollywood armorer has said.
Mike Tristan, 60, who has provided guns for movie sets for over 30 years, said the injuries sustained by Halyna Hutchins, 42, should not have been possible.
Tristan, who has worked with Baldwin before, said any professional armorer would have checked the weapon, which he believes was a Western, before handing it to the 63-year-old.
‘There should have been blanks in the gun, the on-set armorer’s job is to check that before handing the weapon over,’ Tristan told Dailymail.com.
‘They then make sure that the actor stands on a mark and never points the gun at the crew or cast, you give them an aim to point at and the editing makes it seem like they were pointing at their co-actor.
‘That’s why everyone in the industry is very confused, how this happened is a total mystery at the moment.’
Tristan worked with Baldwin in the 1998 movie Thick as Thieves and says he was a ‘total professional’.
‘He was great to work with and was very safe,’ Tristan said, ‘I was surprised to hear it was him, he was always on the mark and very professional, he’s not stupid.’
Production of the film has stopped now in light of the tragedy. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and ‘collecting evidence’, a spokesman said on Friday
The workers were angry that they weren’t being put up in Sante Fe, the town nearest the ranch where they were shooting, and instead were being told to drive every night to Albuquerque after long shifts. Some said they were sleeping in their cars at the set to avoid it
He added that rumours from the set indicated Hutchins sustained a gruesome wound from the shooting, raising the possibility that a real bullet was used.
‘If that’s true that would be unheard of, we never ever have real rounds on a set,’ added Tristan.
‘I’ve heard of people being hurt by blanks but I don’t know how it could have caused that much damage.
‘When I provide guns, we use blanks which are brass casings which are crimped and have powder inside them to make the flash, but the worst injury you can get from those is a powder burn, which is a little irritating at most.’
Tristan, who has worked with Cristian Bale, Russel Crowe and Bruce Willis, said it was not Baldwin’s job to check the gun.
He added: ‘Someone professional on set should have been handling that gun, this makes no sense.’
Tristan said he hoped production had not avoided hiring a professional armorer in a bid to cut costs, which he has heard of happening on other sets.
He added: ‘It’s not dangerous if the proper people are there.’
In another dramatic episode on Saturday, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two live rounds after being told the gun was ‘cold’, witnesses told the Los Angeles Times.
‘There should have been an investigation into what happened,’ the crew member said, adding there had been three accidental firing incidents on set.
‘There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.’
Union members walked off the set over safety concerns hours before the tragedy
Unionized staff members on Wednesday walked off the set of Rust, set in 1880’s Kansas, which stars Baldwin as the infamous outlaw Harland Rust, whose grandson is sentenced to hang for an accidental murder.
They complained about long hours, shoddy conditions and another safety incident days earlier involving ‘two misfires’ of a prop weapon.
Deadline cites an unnamed source who said a gun had gone off ‘in a cabin’ while someone was holding it, days prior to the shooting that killed Hutchins.
‘A gun had two misfires in a closed cabin. They just fired loud pops – a person was just holding it in their hands and it went off,’ they said, apparently referring to unintentional discharges.
Rust Production LLC did not respond to repeated requests for comment from DailyMail.com on Friday about the incident, but members of the union that represents many of the crew who were involved in the production said they had expressed fears about on-set safety.
When they turned up to set to clear their things on Thursday, they found they’d been replaced by locals.
It begs the question of who those local workers were, what their training was and to what extent did they check the weapon before it was handed to Baldwin.
A yet-unnamed prop master who oversaw the gun used in the fatal shooting was a non-union worker who was ‘just brought in’ to replace the workers who left over safety concerns, a source involved in the movie told the New York Post.
Baldwin and Hutchins (circled) are pictured together on the set of Rust, in an image that she uploaded to Instagram two days ago saying the crew of the film were supporting a strike by the IATSE union
An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, where the movie was being filmed. Workers had been protesting over the fact production wouldn’t pay for them to stay in hotels and motels in Sante Fe, instead forcing them to drive an hour to Albuquerque
IATSE Local 44 – whose members were involved in the Rust production – said in a statement to its members that no union members were on the set on Thursday.
One text message that was circulating on social media, shared repeatedly by union members, refers to a ‘walk out’ by staff the day before the tragedy.
The text message claims that Halyna was one of the few people who decided to stay. She belonged to IATSE Local 600 and had been campaigning for better conditions for her team when she was killed.
Regardless of what may have happened, members of the union IATSE say that multiple gun safety protocols were breached.
‘We have a hard and fast rule that no live ammunition ever goes into a prop truck or set at any time. We just don’t do it.
‘If you see bullets on set they are complete dummy rounds and are in no way functional. This goes back to Brandon Lee. There’s protocol.
‘Many, many people had to fail at the protocols we set on place for this to happen,’ Zachary Knight, a member of the IATSE Local 44 union, told DailyMail.com on Friday.
Knight, a licensed pyrotechnic, said the difference in gun laws between New Mexico and California may have contributed to the accident.
In California, both a trained armorer and a prop master is required on a film set and those are the standards the union adheres to as well.
‘You will find the best and most well-trained individuals in Los Angeles. You can’t guarantee that as you go across the country,’ he told DailyMail.com on Friday.
Union members vented on social media before the tragedy about the poor conditions on the set of the film. They talked about having to sleep in their cars at the set rather than make the drive back to Albuquerque because they were too exhausted
In the days before the tragedy, IATSE had been threatening a large-scale strike that would have crippled Hollywood production. Among the complaints were overworking staff and poor rates.
Baldwin recorded a video of himself encouraging the union members to strike if they felt they needed to, saying studio bosses ‘don’t give a f**k about you’, that the union shared online.
‘There’s a direct correlation between maintaining a safe set and the hours that we work. At a certain time there’s no such thing as a safe set if we’re all exhausted,’ Knight, a special effects artist, said.
He added that a different union member prop master had been offered the job on Rust, but had turned it down because the pay was too low. That woman and Hutchins were friends.
Whatever happened in the moments leading up to her death, Knight said it was caused by a ‘cascade of failures’ by multiple people.
‘There should have never been live rounds on a movie set, that’s number one. Number two is every single person on a movie set has a right to inspect a weapon before it’s fired. And number three is, there is no reason to ever put a person in front of a weapon that’s firing.
‘Anytime you see a movie where the barrel is pointed down the camera lens, there should not be an operator behind it. It’s obvious that the considerations of this resulted in that gun being pointed directly at two people.
‘We would have additionally had a barrier between them. A large number of people failed to do our protocols… every accident is a cascade of events.’
Alec Baldwin (pictured in Miami Blues) fired a live round towards the camera, accidentally killing Hutchins as she filmed him, and injuring director Joel Souza, who stood behind her