Investigations Ongoing into the Fatal Shooting by a Prop Gun on the Set of the Movie “Rust”


Jae C. Hong

Alec Baldwin shot a prop gun on October 23 at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, filming location for a Western titled ‘Rust’.

Susie Anderson, Contributing Writer

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was shot and killed when a prop gun went off during rehearsal for the film Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe. Actor Alec Baldwin fired the shot while practicing drawing his gun, according to an affidavit released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday. The shot also injured director Joel Souza, who spoke to investigators on Friday.

Souza confirmed that before rehearsal, he had heard the term “cold gun,” signifying that the firearm onset should have been empty. According to the affidavit, Dave Halls, an assistant director on set, had gone outside the church, the set of the scene, taken the gun off the cart (where it had been placed by Hannah Guiterrez-Reed, the film’s armorer), and handed it to Baldwin. Believing the gun was safe, Halls indicated that the firearm had no live rounds by saying it was a “cold gun.”

At the time of the incident, Baldwin had reportedly been rehearsing a scene that involved “cross drawing” a gun and pointing it toward the camera lens. The revolver fired and struck Hutchins in the chest, killing her, and hitting Souza in the shoulder.

Camera operator Reid Russell, who had been standing next to Souza and Hutchins at the time of the shot, claimed that Baldwin “had been very careful” in handling the firearm and “made sure it was safe and that a child wasn’t near him when they were discharging the firearm.”

The entire incident calls into question Hollywood’s practices in gun safety, mounted atop issues already facing the production. Mary Carmack Altwies, Santa Fe County district attorney, claimed that the use of the term “prop-gun” could give a misleading impression; “It was a legit gun.” She said, “It was an antique-era appropriate gun.” Altwies also stated that detectives are still interviewing people who were on the set, a total of about one hundred, and said that while “Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table… it’s probably weeks, if not months, of follow-up investigation that we’re going to need to get to the point of charging.”

Hours before Hutchins was killed, half a dozen crew members reportedly walked off the set in protest of working conditions; anonymous crew members claimed that problems ranged from long hours to housing accommodations on the low-budget film.

Additionally, there were at least two accidental prop gun discharges on the set, before the fatal shooting, according to multiple reports. Rust Movie Productions LLC said in a statement, “Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.” 

Baldwin shared in a series of tweets on Friday, “There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic incident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother, and deeply admired colleague of ours.”

In a recently released video, Baldwin made his first public comment on the shooting, claiming it was a “One in a trillion” incident and expressing his condolences for Halyna Hutchins’ family. After viewing the video, Hingham High School junior Kelsey Tarby says that “I have no idea how it could’ve happened. I am shocked that so many safety steps could’ve been missed on the set leading up to the incident.” Tarby continued, “The whole thing seems sketchy. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for everyone involved to be put under such a massive public spotlight after such an awful incident.” 

Another junior, Maggie O’Keeffe, expressed that “I was surprised to read all of the headlines focusing on Baldwin specifically. I don’t think it’s fair to place all of the blame on one person when there was more to the story.”

Originally set to continue into early November, production of Rust has been halted for an “Undetermined period of time” according to Rust Movie Productions LLC amid the ongoing investigation.