What we know about the accidental shooting on the set of ‘Rust’

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza and District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies will be holding a press briefing Wednesday with the latest on the accidental shooting on the set of the film Rust. An investigation into the incident at Bonanza Creek Ranch remains active.

Baldwin was rehearsing a scene for ‘Rust’

Last Thursday, actor Alec Baldwin was sitting in pew in a small church on the set, rehearsing a scene for Rust, a Western film set in the 1880’s. According to affidavits for search warrants released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, Baldwin was rehearsing how he would draw a revolver and point it at the camera. The gun fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

Souza told detectives he had been looking over Hutchins’ shoulder when he heard “what sounded like a whip and then loud pop.” Camera operator Reid Russell, who had been standing next to them, told investigators after the gun went off, Hutchins “said she couldn’t feel her legs” and that medics treated her as she was bleeding on the floor.

According to the affidavit, the film’s assistant director David Halls had taken the gun off a prop cart outside of the church and handed Baldwin the gun, after yelling out “cold gun”– indicating he believed it was loaded only with blanks.

Script supervisor Mamie Mitchell called 911 for help. “We had two people accidentally shot on a movie set by a prop gun,” she told the emergency dispatcher, in a recording from the Santa Fe County Regional Emergency Communications Center. “We were rehearsing and it went off, and I ran out, we all ran out.”

The dispatcher asked if the gun was loaded with a real bullet.

“I cannot tell you. We have two injuries,” Mitchell replied. “And this ******* [assistant director] that yelled at me at lunch, asking about revisions… He’s supposed to check the guns. He’s responsible for what happens on the set.”

Mitchell is now being represented by attorney Gloria Allred, who said in a statement that the script supervisor had been standing close to Hutchins and Souza when the gun went off. Allred says her office is doing its own investigation of the incident.

During Rust, Halls worked with armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed. According to the affidavit, Reed prepared three guns and placed them on a cart outside the church where the scene was being rehearsed. After the shooting, she was given the gun and removed a spent casing before handing it to the deputies, according to the documents.

On a podcast last month called “Voices of the West,” Reed talked about her first job as lead armorer earlier this year for the upcoming Western film The Old Way. “I almost didn’t take the job because I didn’t feel ready,” she said. She learned about handling guns from her father, Thell Reed, a long-time Hollywood armorer.

‘Rust’ crew members had walked off the set earlier that day

A number of Rust crew members had walked off the set earlier in the day, hours before the shooting. They complained about working conditions and housing during the low budget production. The union IATSE’s local 480 in New Mexico released a statement that read, in part: “We have been greatly disturbed by media reports that the producers employed non-union persons in craft positions and worse, used them to replace skilled union members who were protesting their working conditions. That is inexcusable.”

What we still don’t know about the shooting

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that criminal charges remain possible for those involved. The District Attorney for Santa Fe County told the newspaper that authorities are investigating the ballistics of the “antique era-appropriate” gun and who it was that placed ammunition in it.

An inventory of the seized items from the set of Rust included loose and boxed ammunition. The details of these items are not yet clear.

It’s too soon to tell how this may or may not affect the upcoming vote to ratify a new contract between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Days before the shooting, the two sides reached a tentative deal over some working conditions and pay. Union members, including cinematographers, editors, hair and makeup artists, costume designers and more had voted overwhelmingly to strike if a deal wasn’t reached when it was. Details of that deal and this shooting incident have prompted conversations about gun safety on film sets, more worker protections for crew members and more.

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