Rust Assistant Director Failed To Check The Chamber Of The On-Set Weapon

For cinematographer Halyna Hutchins to catch a fatal round, shot from a prop gun on the set of the period Western film, "Rust," a series of failures had to occur, unchecked. The most recent development on the deadly Bonanza Creek Ranch incident is an admission of negligence from the film's assistant director, Dave Halls.

A search warrant affidavit filed today reveals new information on how many hands the firearm passed through before it finally landed in actor Alec Baldwin's holster. Earlier investigators disclosed that last Thursday, Halls was the one to hand the gun to him, yelling "cold gun" to indicate that there were no live rounds in the chamber. Unknowingly, he states, the weapon contained a live projectile, possibly leftover from a casual plinking session (in which you shoot at whatever targets are available, like aluminum cans) among some crew members the same morning. During a rehearsal involving a cross-draw (in which a sidearm is drawn from its holster across the body), Baldwin discharged the weapon and hit two people, Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who was hit in the shoulder and released from the Christus St. Vincent Hospital on Friday. Hutchins, who was hit in the stomach, was pronounced dead shortly after at the University of New Mexico Hospital. The affidavit released today contains more information on the tragedy, including an interview between Halls and detectives, as well as more details on the production's cinema armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. Asked by detectives specifically about weapons management protocol on set, assistant director Halls responded in the document:

He advised, "I check the barrel for obstructions, most of the time there's no live fire, so (Hannah) opens the hatch and spins the drum, and I say 'cold gun on set.'" David advised when Hannah showed him the firearm before rehearsal, he could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn't, and couldn't recall if she spun the drum.

The same affidavit states that Gutierrez-Reed displayed three guns on a gray cart for prop usage. Pandemic safety guidelines dictated that the cart be kept outdoors, so it sat outside of the New Mexico church building where "Rust" was filming. Dave Halls brought one of the guns to Baldwin, and the shooting occurred shortly after.

Red Flags Everywhere

Baldwin is both an actor and producer on the film and is fully cooperating with investigators following a statement. The investigation is still ongoing, but the Santa Fe County DA is "not ruling out" any criminal charges. "If the facts and the evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time," Carmack-Altwies said in today's news conference. "I am a prosecutor that was elected in part because I do not make rash decisions and I do not rush to judgment."

Both Gutierrez-Reed and Halls have faced scrutiny in the wake of the incident for failing to enact the proper checks before the on-set weapon was used. Now, three of the film's producers are facing similar fallout for shady tax dealings in the past. "Rust," Variety notes, has so many cooks in its kitchen that it's "not yet entirely clear who was actually in charge of hiring the crew and making sure conditions were safe."

The set conditions have been a hot subject since the deadly accident. Halls was called out by former crewmembers for repeatedly cutting corners on production safety, and several crew members walked off the "Rust" set mere hours before the gun was discharged, to protest working conditions including reckless firearm handling. 

They were replaced with a non-union crew. 

According to The Wrap, Gutierrez-Reed had multiple complaints filed against her on a previous film, another Western — this time starring Nicolas Cage. According to key grip, Stu Brumbaugh, who was on the set of "The Old Way," Cage himself snapped at the armorer after Gutierrez-Reed discharged a gun near the set unannounced, and this wasn't the first time. Brumbaugh tells The Wrap, "I told the [assistant director], 'She needs to be let go.' After the second round I was pissed off. We were moving too fast. She's a rookie."

Reed states in the affidavit that she checked all three firearms on the gray cart for "hot rounds" on the day of the incident, and when the crew broke for lunch, the firearms were secured inside a safe on an on-set "prop truck." While some ammunition is kept in the prop truck, some was left unsecured on the cart during lunch. Only a few individuals have access to the prop truck safe, and that investigation is still underway. 

We will continue to publish updates on the situation as they become available.