Rust film set shooting: prosecutor says criminal charges possible

Criminal charges have not been ruled out in the fatal accidental shooting by Alec Baldwin on the Rust film set, the local district attorney handling the case has said in an interview.

Speaking with the New York Times on Tuesday, the Santa Fe county district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, also said it was incorrect to refer to the firearm used in the incident as a “prop gun”, as media reports have.

“It was a legit gun,” Carmack-Altwies told the paper. “It was an antique, era-appropriate gun.”

The prosecutor said an “enormous amount of bullets” had been found on the set and an investigation was needed into the nature of that ammunition.

On the subject of possible charges, she told the Times: “Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table.”

Police are investigating the shooting on the western film set in New Mexico that killed the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded the director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her.

The gun Baldwin used was one of three that a firearms specialist, or armorer, had set on a cart outside the building where a scene was being rehearsed, according to court records. The assistant director Dave Halls grabbed a gun off a cart and handed it to Baldwin, indicating that the weapon was safe by yelling “cold gun”, court papers say. But it was loaded with live rounds, according to the records.

Baldwin has described the killing as a “tragic accident”.

Court documents released on Tuesday showed that authorities have so far seized three black revolvers, ammunition boxes, a fanny pack with ammunition, several spent casings, two leather gun belts with holsters, articles of clothing and swabs of what was believed to be blood.

The production has been beset by disputes from the start in early October and included seven crew members walking off the set just hours before the shooting.

The Los Angeles Times, citing two unnamed crew members, reported that five days before the shooting, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two live rounds after being told the gun didn’t have any ammunition.

Alarmed by the misfires, a crew member told a unit production manager in a text message, “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by the newspaper.

Meanwhile, crew members who worked with Halls in the past told the Guardian they had raised concerns about safety on a previous film set. Halls did not respond to a Guardian request for comment.

Rust Movie Productions, the production company, says it is cooperating with Santa Fe authorities in their investigation.

“Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” Rust Movie Productions said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

As questions linger about safety protocols, Hollywood professionals say they’re baffled by the circumstances and have called for better gun safety measures.

Jeffrey Wright, who has worked on projects including the James Bond franchise and the forthcoming film The Batman, was acting with a weapon on the set of Westworld when news broke of the shooting on Thursday at a New Mexico ranch. “We were all pretty shocked. And it informed what we did from that moment on,” he said in an interview on Sunday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

“I don’t recall ever being handed a weapon that was not cleared in front of me – meaning chamber open, barrel shown to me, light flashed inside the barrel to make sure that it’s cleared,” Wright said. “Clearly, that was a mismanaged set.”

A vigil for Hutchins was held on Sunday in southern California, where attendees exchanged tearful hugs and speakers echoed calls for heightened safety standards.
The actor Rosanna Arquette joined many in Hollywood in calling for a move away from using real weapons, whether armed with blanks or bullets.

“I hope this wakes people up. Because there should be no live round anything ever on a movie. We have enough CGI, we have enough – it’s absurd,” she said. “All of us are shaken to the core in the industry about this.”

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