Santa Fe District Attorney Says Criminal Charges Are “On the Table” in ‘Rust’ Shooting Case

The Santa Fe County district attorney said the investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of Rust could take weeks, if not months, and she had not ruled out criminal charges.

Speaking to The New York Times ahead of a planned press conference Wednesday, district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said her office has not “ruled out anything” following last week’s shooting death of Rust’s director of photography, Halyna Hutchins. “Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table,” she said Tuesday.

Carmack-Altwies confirmed that the investigation is ongoing and told the Times that detectives from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office are focusing on who placed the ammunition in the gun. They are also looking at ballistics, in order to determine the type of round that was in the weapon. But Carmack-Altwies noted that it will still be some time before charges, if any, are filed.

“It’s probably weeks, if not months, of follow-up investigation that we’re going to need to get to the point of charging,” she said.

The district attorney also clarified that while “prop gun” has been used to describe the firearm that killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, the terminology could be misleading. The weapon used on set was in fact “a legit” working gun and more specifically “an antique-era appropriate gun,” though she provided no further details about the type of firearm.

Messages left by The Hollywood Reporter seeking comment from the district attorney were not immediately returned.

The shooting took place Oct. 21 on the film’s Bonanza Creek Ranch set while star and producer Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene involving “cross drawing,” or pointing a revolver at a camera lens, according to warrant documents released by the sheriff’s office on Sunday.

Rust assistant director Dave Halls grabbed one of three “prop guns,” as the warrant terms them, laid out by the production’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed. Halls then took the gun to Baldwin, who was in full old Western costume inside the church set, and “yelled, ‘cold gun,’ indicating the prop gun did not have any live rounds.” But when Baldwin discharged the gun, something struck both Hutchins and Souza, who was standing behind her, according to the warrant.

By Sunday, it was announced in a letter to the Rust crew that production had wrapped “at least until the investigations are complete.”

According to the Albuquerque Journal, during a press conference on Tuesday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that if the film industry does not act on gun safety measures, the state will.

“My expectation is the industry better step up and identify any number of additional improvements and safeguards,” Lujan Grisham said. “If the industry doesn’t come forward with very specific accountable safeguards, they should expect that we will.”

A statement from IATSE Local 480 obtained by THR on Tuesday expressed “condolences to the family and friends” of Hutchins. “Her death should never have happened. Union sets should be safe sets. We mourn collectively with our union and film community over this great loss.”

“We have been greatly disturbed by media reports that the producers employed non-union persons in craft positions and, worse, used them to replace skilled union members who were protesting their working conditions. That is inexcusable,” the statement continued.

A representative for Rust has previously said the production was “not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set.”

IATSE members have been advocating for safer working conditions during their 2021 negotiations cycle for a new Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement, the latter of which covers some industry work in New Mexico. IATSE and film and television studios reached a tentative Area Standards Agreement deal on Tuesday, but details of the deal and any potential safety provisions therein were scant.

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