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Santa Fe sheriff completes Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ shooting investigation

A gate with a chain on it and a small red building in the background
Entrance to the Bonanza Creek Ranch film set in Santa Fe, N.M., in October 2021.
(Andres Leighton / Associated Press)
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The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has completed its investigation into last year’s deadly accidental shooting by Alec Baldwin of the cinematographer of the low-budget western “Rust,” turning the case over to the local district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies.

“The district attorney and her team of investigators and prosecutors will now begin a thorough review of the information and evidence to make a thoughtful, timely decision about whether to bring charges,” Heather Brewer, Carmack-Altwies’ spokesperson, said in a statement. “As with all cases that the district attorney handles, her focus will be on upholding the integrity of the process, enforcing the laws of the state of New Mexico, and pursuing justice.”

The sheriff’s office report did not specify whether investigators had determined that there was sufficient evidence to support criminal charges, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity.

Sheriff’s detectives completed their review more than a year after the death of Halyna Hutchins. The film’s writer-director, Joel Souza, was also wounded in the Oct. 21, 2021, incident at New Mexico’s Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe.

Now it will be up to Carmack-Altwies and her staff to weigh whether any crimes were committed that day, and if so, who should be held responsible.

Carmack-Altwies — who has said that up to four people, including Baldwin, could be charged — has been preparing the case for months. She has hired a special prosecutor to help oversee the case and recently received $317,000 in funding for additional staff.

After the shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, proposed legislation to ban guns on sets has been scaled back and no changes have been made.

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Law enforcement officials have said they were scrutinizing the actions of those who handled the guns on set that day, including Baldwin; armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who loaded Baldwin’s replica vintage Colt .45 revolver; and first assistant director Dave Halls, who allegedly handed the pistol to Baldwin, telling him it was a “cold” weapon — meaning it was not loaded.

The investigation was delayed as detectives waited months for the FBI to complete a ballistics analysis. In addition, gaining access to Baldwin’s cellphone data to search for possible evidence turned into a protracted, months-long process that required the involvement of New York prosecutors.

Baldwin has maintained that he did not pull the trigger. He has acknowledged cocking the hammer, and that he relied on crew members to do their jobs. However, the FBI report submitted to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in August said that in order for the revolver to fire, the trigger had to be pulled.

Baldwin’s attorney has raised doubt about the FBI’s findings, saying the gun was in poor condition and broke during the agency’s testing.

Questions remain about how live ammunition got mixed into a cardboard box containing “dummy” rounds.

At least seven live bullets were found by sheriff’s detectives on the set of “Rust,” including at least one in Baldwin’s bandoleer, according to evidence submitted in the case.

Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger, the FBI concludes. But the agency’s review doesn’t answer key questions, including where the live bullets came from.

Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, announced in early October that he had agreed to a proposed settlement with Baldwin and other executive producers to resolve the family’s wrongful-death lawsuit, calling his wife’s death a “terrible accident.”

Hutchins has a 10-year-old son, Andros.

Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Under the deal, which must be approved by a judge, “Rust” would resume production in January with Matthew Hutchins serving as an executive producer.

The original cast, including Baldwin, Jensen Ackles and Swen Temmel, is expected to participate, although the group does not plan to return to Bonanza Creek Ranch. Souza, who co-wrote the script with Baldwin, will direct.

Legal experts have said the settlement could complicate any criminal prosecution, although Carmack-Altwies has disputed that it would affect her decision to bring charges.

New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator classified Hutchins’ death as accidental.

“Rust” crew members have told The Times that cost-cutting and a rushed production schedule that led to safety lapses contributed to the tragedy.

In spring, the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau found that the producers were also at fault, saying the production company “demonstrated plain indifference” to gun safety.

The documents include a 204-page case report summarizing the investigation, which remains open and ongoing.

“This [was] a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe,” New Mexico Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement.

The producers, Rust Movie Productions LLC, have disputed the depiction and blamed Gutierrez Reed for the tragedy. The armorer has said she was stretched too thin by trying to juggle two important jobs on the low-budget production.

The death of the rising-star cinematographer sent shock waves through Hollywood, which is still wrestling over potential safety reforms.

The “Rust” shooting occurred during an after-lunch rehearsal in Bonanza Creek Ranch’s old wooden church. Baldwin had been practicing a cross-draw maneuver, pulling the gun from his holster and then pointing it at the camera.

Cameras weren’t rolling when the shooting occurred. Baldwin, in an ABC interview, described pointing the gun at the camera.

Hutchins and Souza were planning a camera close-up of the barrel and chamber of the prop gun when it discharged. The bullet struck Hutchins in the chest and lodged in Souza’s shoulder.

Interviews with multiple members of the “Rust” crew paint an hour- by-hour picture of a cascade of bad decisions that created a chaotic set on which a lead bullet was put into a prop gun.

Carmack-Altwies is a former public defender and former deputy district attorney who is serving her first term as top prosecutor for Santa Fe and two other counties.

The prosecutor, a Democrat, is viewed as politically progressive. During her 2020 campaign, amid nationwide protests over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Carmack-Altwies promised to “hold all people accountable, whether they are a police officer or a citizen.”

New Mexico legal observers said her decision to name Andrea Reeb as a special prosecutor was politically smart.

Reeb is a former district attorney in eastern New Mexico. She retired in March after 25 years as a prosecutor.

A conservative Republican, Reeb is running for a seat in the state Legislature, touting her tough-on-crime approach, as well as her opposition to abortion and strong support for gun rights.

The case could have political overtones, as filming is a big employer in New Mexico and Baldwin is a polarizing figure. The actor famously mocked former President Trump on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Trump has insinuated that he thinks the shooting might have been more nefarious.


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