Crew member yelled ‘cold gun’ as he handed Alec Baldwin prop weapon, court document shows
An assistant director handed Alec Baldwin a prop firearm and yelled “cold gun” before the actor fired the weapon, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza, according to a court document.
The “cold gun” remark was meant to indicate that the weapon did not have live rounds, according to an affidavit for a search warrant for the movie set filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and obtained by CNN affiliate KOAT.
According to the affidavit, Baldwin was handed one of three prop guns by assistant director David Halls that were set up in a cart by an armorer for the movie “Rust.”
Halls did not know there were live rounds in the gun, the affidavit said.
But when the actor fired the gun, a live round hit Hutchins, 42, in the chest and wounded Souza, 48, who was nearby, according to the affidavit.
Hutchins was pronounced dead at the hospital after being airlifted, the affidavit says.
Before Thursday’s shooting, some crew members quit the production over concerns related to safety — including gun inspections and Covid-19 protocols not being followed, according to the Los Angeles Times and other media reports.
Three crew members who were on the set last weekend told the Times there were two accidental prop gun discharges before Thursday.
The rounds were accidentally fired October 16 by Baldwin’s stunt double after he was told the gun was “cold,” two of the crew members, who witnessed the discharges, told the newspaper.
The film’s production company told Deadline in a statement that it was not notified of official complaints regarding weapon or prop safety on set.
“We will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” Rust Movie Productions, LLC said in a statement. “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.”
CNN has made multiple attempts to reach Rust Movie Productions for comment but has not received a response.
Armorer voiced doubt about experience level
Hannah Gutierrez, the armorer for the movie, had recently finished work on her first project as head armorer, she said in a September podcast interview.
Gutierrez was identified as the armorer who “set-up” the prop gun used by Baldwin, according to a search warrant issued by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Friday.
“I was really nervous about it at first,” Gutierrez said of working as head armorer on the set of the movie “The Old Way,” starring Nicolas Cage.
“I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but doing it, like it went really smoothly,” she said in an interview on the Voices of the West podcast, which is dedicated to the Old West.
“It’s really cool… really badass way to start off a really long and cool career, I’m hoping,” Gutierrez added.
Gutierrez said her father, Thell Reed — a gunsmith, stuntman and armorer — started passing on his knowledge of guns when she was 16 years old. Though she studied filmmaking and aspired to act, she said, the transition to armorer seemed natural.
“I tried it with dad one time and then I noticed I had a really natural knack for it — growing up around guns my whole life,” Gutierrez said.
Her work as armorer ranges from teaching actors how to wear a gun belt to aiming and shooting, she said.
“I have to like just show them how to hold it straight, make it look like they’re aiming at something and also you have to teach them about the recoil,” said Gutierrez.
She added, “These blanks don’t really have regular like push back that regular bullets do. In order to make it look more realistic [I] tell the actors to create a little bit of recoil with their wrist.”
‘Make sure that the weapon is truly cold’
“Cold guns” aren’t supposed to be loaded, particularly during rehearsals, a weapons expert told CNN on Friday.
“You have to make sure that the weapon is truly cold, which means there should have been no rounds in there, period. And especially if it’s a rehearsal,” Bryan Carpenter, an armorer and weapons master in the film industry, told CNN.
Carpenter added that while it’s acceptable for some actors to want to get a feel of a weapon during rehearsals, it’s crucial to ensure the prop guns are not filled with any rounds. He noted that weapons on sets should be confirmed “cold” by two people to avoid such tragic incidents.
Despite safety measures, fatal production accidents have happened.
While filming the movie “The Crow” in 1993, actor Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, was killed in a prop gun shooting accident.
Even blank ammunition can be deadly if fired at close range. In 1984, actor John-Eric Hexum was playing around with a gun on the set of “Cover Up: Golden Opportunity” and died after putting the gun to his head and pulling the trigger.
Prop master Joseph Fisher told CNN on Friday that even when there is no “bullet” in a prop gun, there are still projectiles, including gun powder and gas which can be dangerous within a certain range.
Multiple agencies are investigating how this shooting happened
“Rust,” which was being shot at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico, was starring Baldwin, who is also a producer of the film.
A 911 call obtained by KOAT offered a glimpse into the minutes following the shooting. A crew member told the operator that two people had been “accidentally” shot on set.
“We need some help a director and a camera woman have been shot,” a woman told the operator. “I was sitting, we were rehearsing and it went off, and I ran out, we all ran out.”
Baldwin on Friday said he’s in contact with Hutchins’ family.
There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” Baldwin tweeted.
“I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
According to the affidavit, all firearms and ammunition, cameras and computer equipment and the clothes worn by the actors at the time of the shooting were to be seized.
Baldwin’s western-style clothes appeared to be stained with blood, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office affidavit.
The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is also investigating.
“The production company reported the fatality and injury to OHSB last night, in accordance with workplace safety laws. OHSB is investigating the incident in coordination with law enforcement, the employer, and employees,” the agency said in a statement.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office also secured the shooting scene, spokesman Juan Ríos said.
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