Documents: Alec Baldwin Fired ‘Live’ Ammo in Accidental Shooting

Search warrant affidavit indicates actor pulled trigger on the set of ‘Rust,’ inadvertently killing the film’s cinematographer, injuring director

An assistant director on the set of the film Rust—at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County—retrieved a “prop gun” from a rolling cart and handed it to one of America’s best-known actors on Thursday afternoon.

“Cold gun,” the assistant director shouted.

Moments later, Alec Baldwin fired a shot that struck cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, the state’s only Level-1 trauma center, where she died. Souza, 48, was released Friday from Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.

The first publicly available sequence of events that led up to the shooting comes from a search warrant affidavit sworn out by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Det. Joel Cano; SFR obtained the document from the Magistrate Court on Friday.

No search warrant returns were immediately available at the courthouse, so it is not clear what evidence investigators collected from the scene of the shooting. But the affidavit offers a glimpse into what Cano and other detectives believe might aid their investigation, including a mention that the shooting may have been caught on film or some sort of other video.

Magistrate Judge John Rysanek signed off on Cano’s request early Friday morning to gather film, video and cameras; live and prop weapons and ammunition, plus documentation of ownership of weapons and ammunition; clothing worn by Baldwin and others at the time of the shooting (which may have been splattered with blood, given the “close proximity” in which the shooting took place); computer equipment used to record and store video, plus cellphones of people present; and interior and exterior photographs of the wooden structure on the ranch where Baldwin fired.

The affidavit also lays out the timeline, which Cano attributes to witness statements:

The crew and actors were performing a rehearsal for a scene in Rust, Baldwin’s latest project in which he is working as an actor and producer. Cameras were set up on the scene.

The film crew’s armorer had laid three “prop guns” out on a rolling cart, and the film’s assistant director grabbed one for the rehearsal and handed it to Baldwin. (Though the armorer and the assistant director are named in the affidavit, SFR is not identifying them because neither has been accused or charged with a crime.)

That’s when the assistant director signaled to those gathered for the rehearsal that there was no live ammunition in the gun by shouting: “Cold gun.”

The assistant director “did not know live rounds were in the prop-gun,” Cano wrote in the affidavit.

After the shooting, Baldwin changed out of the “Old Western” costume he was wearing for the scene and into street clothes. The actor gave the costume to investigators before leaving the ranch.

The armorer, meanwhile, took possession of the prop-gun Baldwin fired and a spent casing. The armorer turned the gun over to detectives, who placed it in a squad car along with the other prop weapons and ammunition that had been on the rolling cart. The film is set in the 1880s, but the affidavit does not detail the type or caliber of the weapon.

Baldwin voluntarily went to the sheriff’s office after the shooting and provided a statement, sources tell SFR. It appears he is being considered a witness, not a suspect.

No charges had been filed in connection with the shooting as of publication time. Santa Fe County Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios did not respond to a list of written questions from SFR, including whether charges will be filed, whether anyone is being treated as a suspect and what investigators’ primary focus is as of Friday afternoon.

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies issued a statement at 10 am Friday: “This case is still in its preliminary stages of investigation. We are assisting the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and have offered our full support to them. At this time, we do not know if charges will be filed. We will look into all facts and evidence of the case with great discretion and have further information at a later time. Our thoughts are with all affected by this tragedy.”

Filming for Rust began earlier this month and was scheduled to continue into November. The state Film Office said the production would employ approximately 75 New Mexico crew members, 22 New Mexico principal actors and 230 New Mexico background talent. Souza lives in San Francisco; Hutchins is from the Ukraine.

Correction: This story originally misspelled Halyna Hutchins’ first name.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.