‘Rust’ shooting leaves 1 dead and 1 injured


Gage Skidmore | Wikimedia Commons

M’Niyah Lynn

Actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinementographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza with a prop gun while rehearsing a scene on the set of the western movie “Rust,” at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Bonanza City, New Mexico on Oct. 21.

The shooting incident has been investigated by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Baldwin was told there were no live rounds in the gun he used. However, while searching the set, detectives found that there were three revolvers, spent casings and boxes of ammunition, The New York Times reported.

“Rust” is a film about a 13-year-old boy who is left to defend himself and his brother after their parents’ death. The boy goes on the run with his estranged grandfather after he’s sentenced to be hung for accidentally killing a rancher. Baldwin is credited for being in a starring role and as a producer.

The presence of the ammunition was unusual, Mike Tristano, a veteran professional armorer based in Los Angeles, mentioned in The New York Times article.

“The fact that there is loose ammunition and casings raises questions about the organization of the armory department,” he said.

According to a warrant, Souza explained that three people handled the gun: the armorer and the assistant director checked first, and then Baldwin was given the prop, according to CNN. Assistant Director David Halls was the one that directly gave the gun to Baldwin and yelled “cold gun,” ensuring Baldwin that the gun was safe.

The search warrant said that Halls advised he should have checked the rounds but did not and could not recall if the armorer inspected the drum. This point was also noted from the armorer.

Earlier on the day of the incident, there was already a walkout of some members of the camera department over issues with payment, housing and working conditions. This coincided with the contract negotiations and almost-protest by members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

“New Mexico is a ‘right to work’ state, so producers were able to hire nonunion replacements and continue working on the film,” Amy Goodman said on Democracy Now.

Additionally, Dutch Merrick, prop master and armorer for over 25 years and past president of IATSE Local 44 Property Craftspersons, mentioned that usually, Hollywood is careful in regulating the handling of firearms, but in this case, crews are exhausted from working 80 to 100-hour workweeks. He suggests this factored into the shooting.

Halls has a history of being the subject of complaints about disregarding safety practices on other film sets. For instance, Maggie Goll, IATSE Local 44 prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, described that Halls didn’t hold safety meetings or announce firearms on set when he was working on Hulu’s “Into the Dark” in 2019, Goll told CNN.

On the other hand, some believe that Halls shouldn’t be responsible for the incident. “Expecting an assistant director to check a firearm is like telling the assistant director to check sound or lighting,” Halls’ attorney Lisa Torraco told Fox News.

In a statement to CBS News, Halls said, “Halyna Hutchins was not just one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with, but also a friend.”

Baldwin could face legal challenges and criminal charges. Some believe he should because he was the one who shot Hutchins and is the executive producer, which gives him responsibility for safety protocols onset, Hollywood experts told the New York Post

“Loaded or unloaded, a weapon never gets pointed at another human being,” Bryan Carpenter, a firearms consultant of Dark Thirty Film Service, said to the Post.

Also, the Post reported that Joseph Costa, an attorney, said, “It’s the equivalent of drinking and driving, meaning someone may not have intended to cause great harm but they do.”

The entertainment industry also has a history of occupational injuries and accidents on film sets, including car crashes and prop gun mishaps. For example, there were gun incidents cited on Reuters’ timeline in 1984 and 1993.

“How many bullets have gone off in movies and on TV sets before? How many billions in the last 75 years?” Baldwin said, according to Fox News. “We have to realize when it does go wrong and it’s this horrible catastrophic thing, some new measures have to take place.”