Rust Crew Members Used Prop Guns For Target Practice Hours Before Fatal Shooting

Cast and crew members from the indie Western "Rust" continue to speak out about the working conditions and apparent negligence that caused the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and hospitalization of director Joel Souza, and the reality of the situation only becomes grimmer. An individual with knowledge of the set told The Wrap that the gun that killed Hutchins and injured Souza had been used for target practice and had been loaded with live ammunition that same morning by members of the film's crew.

According to that individual, an unknown number of crew members had taken guns from the set of "Rust" and used them while "plinking" with beer cans. "Plinking" is a casual form of target shooting that involves shooting at whatever targets are on hand, think scraps like cans or paper. The Wrap's reporting did not include whether or not anyone other than the crew members in question had known about the target practice.

A Tragic Story

While the timeline of the tragedy on the set of "Rust" still seems murky, it's been reported that only a few hours later, six camera crew workers walked off set to protest unsafe working conditions, including two gun misfires that had already taken place before the deadly shooting. The Los Angeles Times has reported that those crew members were quickly replaced by non-union members and work was allowed to continue, which seems to confirm The Wrap's report. Their source adds that the walkout would have normally caused the entire production to pause for a minimum of 24 hours, but that filming in New Mexico, which is a "right to work" state, made it possible to keep filming.

At some point after the walkout, David Halls, the first assistant director, confirmed that the gun was "cold," meaning it had no live ammunition, and handed it off to actor Alec Baldwin, who struck Hutchins and Souza. Local 44, a chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), disputed Halls' assessment. According to another story by The Los Angeles Times, Local 44 sent an email out to its members saying, "a live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor, hitting both the Director of Photography, Local 600 member Halyna Hutchins, and Director Joel Souza. Both were rushed to the hospital."

While this is a tragic story that is still actively being investigated, it's important to note that IATSE is actively fighting against these kinds of unsafe working conditions. In response to the tragedy, ABC's "The Rookie" has already banned live weapons on its set.