“In reference to possible charges, it’s too early right now in the investigation to comment on charges at this point,” Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said today of the October 21 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the injuring of Rust director Joel Souza on Thursday by a gun held by the film’s star and producer Alec Baldwin.
“The investigation will continue and if the Sheriff’s Office determines during our investigation that a crime has occurred and probable cause exists, an arrest or arrests will be made and charges will be filed,” the Sheriff added.
“Otherwise, we will complete our investigation and forward the complete investigation and evidence to the Distract Attorney for review,” Mendoza noted, saying there are more interviews to be conducted. While noting there was footage of that day of the Rust set, the sheriff also made public that “there was no footage of the actual accident.”
“Obviously I think the industry does have a record of being safe — [I] think there was complacency on this set,” Mendoza replied to a question about overall safety on film sets and Rust specifically. “I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly the state of New Mexico. But I will leave that up to the industry and the state to determine what that needs to be.”.
Covered live on the cable news channels and online, the press conference from Sheriff Mendoza and First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies comes as law enforcement has wrapped up the first phase of the investigation into what happened and what went wrong at the Bonanza Creek Ranch on the low-budget Western last week.
“If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time,” DA Carmack-Altwies said in her remarks today, adding “we are not there yet.” In an echo of her comments to The New York Times on Tuesday, she added that “all options are on the table – no one has been ruled out.”
She added that there is “no precedent” in the state for something like this. “It is a very complex case.”
The Sheriff’s Office already has said that more search warrants could be coming. Police spokesperson Jian Rios also told Deadline on October 26 that the probe is “going to be ongoing for a while.”
Mendoza said authorities have recovered “600 items of evidence.”
“We know that there was one live round, as far as we are concerned, on set,” the sheriff added. “We are going to determine whether we suspect that there were other live rounds. But that is up to the testing. But right now, we are going to determine how those got there, why they were there — because they shouldn’t have been there.”
He added: “We believe we have in our possession the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin. This is the firearm that we believe discharged the bullet.”
Mendoza said three guns were recovered from the scene and identified the one fired by Baldwin as a “long Colt .45 revolver.” Mendoza added that one was a “non-functioning” plastic gun that could not shoot live bullets, and the other had been “modified” so that, he believes, it could not fire bullets
The department has recovered “500 rounds of ammunition … a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting are live rounds,” said Mendoza. He said that a “lead projectile … has been recovered from the shoulder of Mr. Souza” and indicated that he considered the “bullet live because obviously it did fire from the gun.”
But, he quickly added, “Until it’s proven by the crime lab, it’s a suspected live round. But it did fire from the weapon and it did cause injury, so that would lead us to believe that it was a live round.”
The Sheriff’s Office is sending the ammunition to the FBI Lab in Quantico, VA, “for analysis,” Mendoza revealed.
“We’re working diligently to wrap this up,” Mendoza said, but he offered no timeline for completing the investigation.
Baldwin, Souza, First Assistant Director Dave Halls – — who previously was fired from at least one film for a weapon going off unexpectedly — armorer Hannah Gutierrez, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and several other members of the Rust production were interviewed by the Sheriff’s Office on October 21. They all were released that day with no travel or other restrictions, we are told. There have been follow-up interviews but no arrests or charges as of yet. Mitchell on Monday retained lawyer Gloria Allred. The high-profile attorney said Tuesday, “We are conducting our own investigation of what happened because there are many unanswered questions.”
“We identified two other people that handled and or inspected the loaded prior to Baldwin firing the weapon,” Mendoza said at today’s press conference. “These two individuals are armorer Hannah Reed-Gutierrez and Assistant Director David Halls. All three individuals have been cooperative in the investigation and have provided statements.”
According to an October 22 affidavit submitted to a state judge for search warrants, Baldwin was told by Rust Assistant Director Halls that the gun he was pointing toward the camera for a rehearsal scene was a “cold gun.” At that time, the police investigation also determined that all three “prop guns” were prepped by the on-set armorer Gutierrez and the First AD “did not know live rounds were in the prop gun.”
Scouring the rural location over the past few days after receiving two search warrants on October 21, police filed an inventory list with the Magistrate Court. That list includes three guns, ammunition and spent casings that were discovered at the old-style church location on flat surfaces; secured boxes; and a “fanny pack.”
Almost a week after promising that they would be conducting an internal review, the producers of Rust yesterday brought the law firm Jenner & Block “to conduct an investigation of the events.”
Tom Tapp and Ted Johnson contributed to this report
Rust Movie Accident
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