Extensive video footage was released Monday in the ongoing investigation of the fatal “Rust” shooting, shedding light on internal issues that led to actor Alec Baldwin firing a prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western movie.
Data files released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office included a video of investigators debriefing Baldwin within hours of the fatal shooting, talking with him inside a compact office. The investigation files also include rehearsal clips that show Baldwin in costume as he practices a quick-draw maneuver with a gun.
At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. They had been inside a small church during setup for filming a scene.
In a video taken by police later that day, Baldwin makes a few frantic calls as he awaits a meeting with law enforcement officials. “You have no idea how unbelievable this is and how strange this is,” he says over the phone.
“I don’t want to be a public person,” Baldwin says over the phone in that same video footage. “I’m the one holding a gun in my hand that everyone was supposed to have taken care of.”
He also asked investigators: “Am I being charged with something?”
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Officials also released video footage from the hospital emergency room where “Rust” director Joel Souza was taken to following his injury on set.
From a hospital bed, Souza is seen recounting to a deputy officer what he remembers from the shooting. Souza recalls hearing a “very loud bang” that “felt like someone kicked me in the shoulder.”
“I was down… and then I looked over and see the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with blood coming out of her back.”
“Is she OK?” Souza also asks.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said in a statement Monday that the investigation by his agency remains open and ongoing as it awaits the results of ballistics and forensic analysis from the FBI as well as studies of fingerprint and DNA.
“The sheriff’s office is releasing all files associated with our ongoing investigation,” Mendoza said in the statement. Those files also include photos of ammunition from the set and examination reports.
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‘Rust’ crew reveals concerns over safety in emails, text messages
Screenshots of emails and text messages released Monday reveal that a number of “Rust” crew members were aware of safety issues on set.
In a text conversation between armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and Baldwin’s assistant on Oct. 15, 2021, Gutierrez-Reed checks in to ask if Baldwin is “feeling OK” about an upcoming scene in which Baldwin would be holding a firearm. “Just worried he never tried shooting with the holster at all,” Gutierrez-Reed writes.
“He has not relayed anything to me on this front,” the assistant replies.
Lane Luper, an A-camera first assistant on the film who quit the production, wrote to Hutchins and unit production manager Row Walters on Oct. 20 that safety issues were a constant challenge on set, including enforcement of COVID-19 policies.
“The obstacles that we overcome every day on a western should be that of logistics and that alone,” Luper wrote. “Unfortunately the challenge that I face each day in this picture is safety.”
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In a text conversation between Baldwin and prop master Sarah Zachry from December, Baldwin tells Zachry that the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office seems “to be getting very close to the truth of what happened.”
While Zachry tells Baldwin the likelihood of authorities finding Baldwin’s culpability in the shooting “seems so unlikely,” the actor emphasizes the “expensive” private investigators working on the case and that they “may get to the truth before the police do.”
“There is too much riding on this for too many people,” Baldwin writes.
In another conversation, Hutchins and Souza discussed Luper’s departure and the staffing instability it created.
Hutchins told Souza there was no immediate plan for what the other assistant cameramen were going to do in Luper’s absence. “Whatever happens happens, I guess,” Souza replied.
In February, Hutchins’ family announced a wrongful death lawsuit against “Rust” producers, including Baldwin.
Brian Panish, a lawyer for Matthew Hutchins, the victim’s husband of 16 years, and the couple’s 9-year-old son, Andros Hutchins, said Baldwin and the film’s producers had “committed major breaches of industry protocols” that “led to the senseless and tragic death of Halyna Hutchins.”
“Alec Baldwin recklessly shot and killed Halyna Hutchins on the set,” the lawsuit stated. “Defendant Baldwin and the other defendants in this case failed to perform industry standard safety checks and follow basic gun safety rules while using real guns … with fatal consequences.”
In an interview with ABC News in December, Baldwin said he cocked the gun, “but did not pull the trigger.” He said that he felt incredible sadness over the shooting, but not guilt.
“Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but it’s not me,” Baldwin said in the interview.
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Contributing: Morgan Lee, The Associated Press