A round of ammunition believed to have killed a cinematographer on the set of the movie “Rust” last week was recovered from the shoulder of the movie’s director, Joel Souza, New Mexico authorities said on Wednesday.
The bullet was among about 500 rounds of ammunition found on the set, with that ammunition being “a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting are live rounds,” said Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza at a press conference.
“We know that there was one live round, as far as we’re concerned, on set,” said Mendoza. “We suspect that there were other live rounds, but that’s up to the testing. But right now, we’re going to determine how those got there, why they were there, because they shouldn’t have been there.”
The bullet removed from Souza’s shoulder, which authorities believe killed 41-year-old Halyna Hitchens, has been sent to an FBI crime lab to determine with certainty whether it was a live round, Mendoza said, adding that authorities strongly believe it was live, since it was fired from a weapon and caused injuries.
There was additional ammunition found in the gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin but authorities don’t believe any of it was live, Mendoza added.
“I think there was some complacency on this set and I think there are safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry,” he said.
Mendoza confirmed that the film’s assistant director Dave Halls and the firearms specialist Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had both handled or inspected the gun that was given to Baldwin.
“I think there was some complacency on this set and I think there are safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry.”
Halls admitted to an investigator, according to an affidavit obtained by The New York Times on Wednesday, that he did not properly inspect the gun he handed to Baldwin as he should have.
He told an investigator that Gutierrez-Reed opened the gun for him to inspect but he did not check all of the rounds and he couldn’t recall whether Gutierrez-Reed had “spun the drum” where the cartridges are held.
Both Mendoza and Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who spoke just prior to the Times’ publication of Halls’ interview, said that it’s too early to comment on potential charges.
“No one has been ruled out at this point,” Carmack-Altwies said when asked whether Baldwin, who has been described as “cooperative” with investigators, could face charges.
Baldwin told authorities that he believed he was holding an unloaded pistol when the gun went off, killing Hitchens and wounding Souza, who had been standing behind her.
Halls has faced scrutiny over his safety practices in recent days, with a former coworker accusing him of allowing unsafe working conditions related to firearms on a previous set. Two people who worked on the film “The Old Way,” starring Nicolas Cage, with Gutierrez-Reed told The Daily Beast that there were concerns about gun safety on that set as well.
Before the shooting last week, production staff had raised concerns about safety issues on the “Rust” set, including related to firearms. The Los Angeles Times reported that Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two live rounds on set five days before the shooting. The stunt double had reportedly been told that the gun did not contain live ammunition. The New York Times, citing three former crew members, similarly reported that there had been at least two earlier accidental gun discharges on the set.