Real Bullets Among the Movie Props: New Details of Rust Shooting Death

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    Real Bullets Among the Movie Props: New Details of Rust Shooting Death

    Criminal charges remain possible. “No one has been ruled out at this point,” district attorney says.

    The Santa Fe sheriff’s department has collected approximately 500 rounds of what it characterized as “ammunition” from the set of the western movie Rust, where a prop gun loaded with an apparent real bullet went off in the hand of actor Alec Baldwin, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

    Not all of them are lethal, but Sheriff Adam Mendoza believes some will prove to be real bullets. “That is a mix of blanks, dummy rounds, and what we are suspecting are live rounds,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.

    Blanks have explosive powder in them but no slug, so they create a bang, smoke, and fire, but should launch no projectile. Dummy rounds typically look like bullets, but are entirely fake with no propulsive power. They are used as props for scenes featuring ammunition—and they are intended to keep real bullets away from set.

    Investigators say that obviously didn’t happen in this case.

    “We suspect there were other live rounds that were found on the set,” Mendoza added. “I won’t comment now on how they got there. This investigation is active. But we suspect that they are there. That will be determined when testing is done by the crime lab about whether or not they are officially live rounds.”

    Investigators have also recovered the gun in question, an F.LLI Pietta Long Colt 45. “There was other ammunition in the gun that we believe was fired by Mr. Baldwin,” Mendoza added, although he did not clarify whether that ammunition was also real bullets or merely blank charges. The evidence has been sent to the FBI crime lab for a formal determination.

    Mendoza, however, was straightforward about what they believe killed Hutchins and wounded writer-director Joel Souza: “We would consider it a live round. A bullet. It did fire from the weapon, and caused the death of Ms. Hutchins and injured Mr. Souza.”

    He said detectives are looking into rumors that some members of the crew were using the prop guns to engage in target practice, which may have introduced the live round to the set, but he could not confirm that was the case. “We are aware of those rumors and those statements, and we’re going to do our best to track those down,” he said.

    Witness statements indicate Baldwin was told by crew that the prop was a “cold gun” that could not actually fire. But when asked if the actor had been exempted from potential criminal wrongdoing, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said he had not. 

    “All options are on the table at this point. I’m not commenting on charges, whether they will be filed or not, and on who. We cannot answer that question yet until we complete a more thorough investigation,” she said. “No one has been ruled out at this point.”

    “Right now, he is an active part of this investigation,” Mendoza added. Ask to characterize Baldwin’s behavior, the sheriff said: “Just generally, he has been cooperative in this investigation.”

    Mendoza also said investigators had interviewed armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was responsible for maintaining the prop weapons on set, and assistant director Dave Halls, who handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced that it was a “cold gun” before the fatal rehearsal.

    “We have interviewed them. There may be follow up interviews,” Mendoza said.

    For now, the sheriff said all signs point to a real bullet as the cause of Hutchins’ death. Mendoza said investigators have the firearm, the shell casing, and the object that struck and killed her, then embedded itself in the director. 

    “The projectile was recovered by medical personnel when he was being treated, and was turned over to the sheriff’s office as evidence,” Mendoza says.

    It was a piece of lead. “We would consider it a live round,” the sheriff added. “A bullet.”

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    Published at Wed, 27 Oct 2021 17:49:57 +0000

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