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Search warrant reveals grim details of 'Rust' shooting and Halyna Hutchins' final minutes

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Actor Alec Baldwin was practicing removing a revolver from its holster and aiming toward the camera during rehearsal for the movie “Rust” when director Joel Souza heard “what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop,” according to a search warrant that provided grim new details about the final minutes of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ life.

In the newly released document obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday night, Souza said the weapon had been described to him as a “cold gun,” meaning it did not have any live rounds. But the gun discharged, striking Hutchins in her chest and Souza in his right shoulder, according to a Santa Fe County, New Mexico, sheriff’s detective’s affidavit used to obtain a search warrant. Hutchins was pronounced dead at an Albuquerque hospital.

Souza’s statement to the detective offered a new window into the on-set shooting Thursday that has left Hollywood reeling and calling for safer working conditions on sets.

The shooting took place after six members of the film’s crew walked off the set after complaining to the production company about payment and housing, camera operator Reid Russell told Detective Joel Cano. Russell’s and Souza’s statements to the detective offered the most detailed chronology yet of how the tragedy unfolded.

The day started late because the production hired a replacement camera crew and was working with only one camera, Souza told the detective.

Aside from Baldwin, Souza said two people were handling the gun for the scene: armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, and then assistant director Dave Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin, the affidavit said.


Because of COVID-19 safety protocols Gutierrez Reed set up three prop guns on a cart left outside Bonanza Creek Ranch’s church set, the focus of the search warrant. Halls did not know live rounds were in the gun that he handed to Baldwin, and Halls yelled “cold gun,” according to the affidavit.

Souza told the detective that cast and crew had been preparing for the scene before lunch but then took a meal break away from the rehearsal area around 12:30 p.m. When they returned, Souza said, he wasn’t sure whether the gun was checked again. He also addressed the possibility of cast or crew bringing onto the set live ammunition and live rounds, which can include potentially dangerous blanks.

“Joel said as far as he knows, no one gets checked for live ammunition on their person prior and after the scenes are being filmed,” the affidavit said. “The only thing checked are the firearms to avoid live ammunition being in them. Joel stated there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around the scene.”

When they came back from lunch, a creeping shadow prompted the camera to be moved to a different angle, Russell told the detective. As Baldwin was explaining how he was going to draw his gun and where his arm would be positioned, it discharged, Russell said.


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