Sheriff’s Report on ‘Rust’ Shooting Doesn’t Find Source of Live Rounds

A 551-page report detailing the investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office into the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the film “Rust” last year painted a picture of a chaotic movie shoot but did not answer one of the fundamental questions of the case: How did live ammunition make its way onto the set, against the rules, and into the gun Alec Baldwin was practicing with that day?

“It was not determined where the live rounds on the set came from,” Juan R. Rios, a spokesman with the Sheriff’s Office, said on Friday after the report was publicly released as a response to records requests by news organizations.

The Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the shooting in New Mexico for more than a year, did not make a judgment in its report on whether criminal charges should be filed. It delivered the report to the district attorney’s office last month; prosecutors previously indicated that up to four people could be charged in connection with the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42.

Using an F.B.I. laboratory report, the Sheriff’s Office determined that five additional live rounds had been found in various places on the “Rust” set, including in the belt Mr. Baldwin was wearing as part of his costume.

Mr. Rios said the Sheriff’s Office would not revisit the mystery of where the live rounds originated unless it received new information on the case.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, Heather Brewer, said in an email that the question would be part of its investigation.

On Oct. 21, 2021, the old-fashioned revolver Mr. Baldwin was holding went off while members of the production team were positioning a camera for close-up framing. Mr. Baldwin denied culpability, saying that he had been told the gun was safe to handle, and that Ms. Hutchins had been directing him where to point the gun.

Others who were interviewed by investigators include Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer; Dave Halls, the first assistant director; and Seth Kenney, who supplied many of the set’s guns and ammunition. They have all denied responsibility in the shooting.

The gun Alec Baldwin was holding when it went off on the set of “Rust.”Credit…Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office

The report published details of conversations that investigators extracted from Mr. Baldwin’s cellphone but did not include any from the day of the shooting. His lawyer, Luke Nikas, said those had been withheld from the Santa Fe investigators because of an agreement with law enforcement officials in New York State to hold back privileged conversations with his wife and his lawyer, or communications irrelevant to the “Rust” movie.

“Mr. Baldwin fully cooperated with the investigation and turned over his phone with all records, including all records from the day of the incident,” Mr. Nikas said.

According to the investigative records, live ammunition was also found on top of a cart used by the prop department, in a bandoleer on the cart, and in an ammunition box. All of it was listed as having been manufactured by Starline Brass, a company that does not make live ammunition but that sells brass cases that can be made live by adding a bullet and powder.

Those details and others were part of the case file that the Sheriff’s Office sent to local prosecutors. The material provides insight into how “Rust” crew members have explained what happened in the days and moments before the deadly shooting.

In a newly released November 2021 interview, Sarah Zachry, the crew member in charge of props on set, said the film had sourced its dummy rounds — inert cartridges that cannot be fired and are used to resemble live bullets on film — from Mr. Kenney and another individual referred to as “Billy Ray.” She said Ms. Gutierrez-Reed had also brought with her gun belts with dummy rounds already loaded in them, as well as a green bin, from a prior production.

Witnesses have presented the Sheriff’s Office with several possibilities for how live rounds may have ended up on the set.

One came in a note to investigators from Thell Reed, Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s father, a prominent Hollywood armorer who had trained her. Mr. Reed wrote them that a month or two before the “Rust” shooting, he and Mr. Kenney trained actors on a different set at a gun range with live ammunition. After the training, Mr. Reed wrote, Mr. Kenney kept the live rounds and took them back home with him — later telling Mr. Reed that he wanted to keep the rounds.

In statements and legal papers, Ms. Gutierrez-Reed has laid blame on Mr. Kenney. In a lawsuit she filed against him, lawyers for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed said the ammunition that Mr. Kenney’s company supplied contained a “mix of dummy and live ammunition,” a claim he denies. In a statement to the news media and in an interview with an investigator, Mr. Kenney has pinned blame on Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, saying that the handling of firearms and ammunition on set was her responsibility.

A detective also questioned Ms. Gutierrez-Reed about dummy rounds that she had brought from a recent film on which she was an armorer — a western called “The Old Way,” starring Nicolas Cage.

Ms. Gutierrez-Reed told investigators that at one point during her work on “Rust” she noticed a shortage of .45 Long Colt dummy rounds. After asking Mr. Kenney where she might find more, she said, he asked her to check the supply of dummy rounds from “The Old Way.” In doing so, she found a bag filled with a “bunch of loose dummies” in her car, Ms. Gutierrez-Reed said. She noted that she had checked to make sure all of those rounds were dummies before bringing them to the set of “Rust.”

The filming of “Rust,” about a grizzled outlaw trying to help his teenage grandson escape a death sentence, is scheduled to resume in January as part of a settlement reached by the producers and Matthew Hutchins, Ms. Hutchins’s husband. The production is not planning to return to New Mexico and is considering other filming locations, including California.

In the aftermath of the fatal shooting, some involved with the film publicly criticized the safety standards on set, including in lawsuits that are still pending. Ms. Gutierrez-Reed and Ms. Zachry acknowledged in interviews with investigators that there had been two accidental discharges of blanks on set before the shooting that killed Ms. Hutchins. Ms. Zachry accidentally discharged a gun while pointing it at the ground near her feet, she told a detective, and that same day, a stuntman accidentally discharged a rifle.

Related Articles

Back to top button