Six months after Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer on the set of the movie “Rust” while practicing with a gun improperly loaded with live ammunition, in Santa Fe County, New Mexico Sheriff Adan Mendoza said Tuesday that “I don’t think everyone is off the hook when it comes to criminal charges.
Live ammunition is not meant to be used on film sets. In an interview on NBC’s “Today,” Mendoza said no one admitted to bringing live ammunition to the set of “Rust,” but said he was concerned about evidence suggesting a member of his crew had expressed interest in using live ammunition. while working on a previous film.
“There was information from text messages that was concerning, based on the fact that live ammunition was brought up and possibly used on a previous movie set,” Mendoza said in the interview, “and it was just a few months before ‘Rust’ hit set and production began.
He appeared to be referring to text messages from “Rust” gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of gun safety on set, in which she indicated that she had expressed interest in shooting ” live ammunition” when she was working on a Nicolas Cage Western titled “The Old Way,” which was filmed in Montana.
Gutierrez-Reed texted Seth Kenney, who supplies guns and ammunition for film productions, in August and asked if she could “shoot some hot bullets,” according to a summary of the text exchange published this week by investigators.
Kenney texted her back, asking what she meant by “hot ride.”
“Like a pretty big load of live ammunition,” Gutierrez-Reed replied.
Kenney told her never to fire live ammunition from firearms used on a film set, texting, “This is a big mistake, which always ends in tears.”
“Good to know,” Gutierrez-Reed replied, according to the case report. “I’m still going to shoot mine.”
The summary of the text exchange was included in a series of evidence and investigative reports released Monday by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. The documents listed some of the wires that detectives were tracking as they attempted to determine how live ammunition entered the gun Baldwin was practicing with on October 21 when it discharged, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Newly released evidence paints a picture of a sometimes chaotic film set, where some crew members had expressed concerns about gun safety and, after Hutchins’ death, some crew members denigrated about it. others in texts and to investigators.
The sheriff’s office said Monday it was awaiting several key pieces of evidence it needed to complete its investigation.
Jason Bowles, a lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed, said in an email that his client’s text messages indicated that she asked then-mentor Kenney when she could fire bullets “with a historic weapon to see how she worked”. He said she never intended to shoot him during production or on set.
“Hannah has never brought balls live to a film set and never sent them back on set,” Bowles said in the email.
Gutierrez-Reed was 24 and had been working as a gunsmith for less than a year when she accepted the position of “Rust”, her second as a gunsmith. The daughter of a well-known Hollywood gunsmith named Thell Reed, she told detectives she had “handled guns all her life”.
Gutierrez-Reed’s discussion of live ammunition on the Montana film set isn’t the only common thread followed by investigators.
Around the same time that Gutierrez-Reed was on set of ‘The Old Way,’ his father and Kenney were in Texas training actors in the Paramount + Western series ‘1883,’ according to interview notes. a detective with November Reed. Part of Reed’s job was to train actors with live ammunition in a remote area of the set, and he told a detective that the rest of his ammunition ended up being left with Kenney.
One of the questions investigators have focused on is where the ammunition used on “Rust” came from. Kenney supplied “Rust” with ammunition and around 30 firearms, and Gutierrez-Reed sued Kenney and company earlier this year, alleging the company actually supplied the film with a mixture of dummy bullets and live ammunition.
Kenney said in an interview that the ammo box Reed was referring to was in Texas and remained there until November, after the shooting. He said he was convinced the single box of aged ammunition he provided was not the source of the live round, saying he personally tested each of the 50 rounds that went to ‘Rust’ two time.
“When I pick up a dummy ball, I have to shake it,” Kenney said.
In a text message released by investigators, Sarah Zachry, the film’s prop guy, wrote that some additional dummy tricks came from an individual named Billy Ray, while “Hannah brought ammo and/or dummies from her production previous”.
According to a report by detective Alexandria Hancock, investigators also recovered a photo of two guns at an indoor shooting range from a phone belonging to Dave Halls, the first assistant director of “Rust.” The photo was dated three days before the fatal shooting, according to the report, and Hancock wrote that she had sought an explanation from Halls attorney Lisa Torraco earlier this month, but did not had not received a response.
Torraco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Detectives’ questioning also focused on how the gun was checked after being loaded with ammunition by Gutierrez-Reed, who believed it was loading dummy rounds. She carried the gun into the church and handed it to Halls, who examined the cartridges in the chamber and declared the gun to be “cold”, before handing it to Baldwin.
Interviews with detectives described the panic of members of the production crew as they tried to figure out what was wrong that afternoon when the .45 Long Colt discharged, firing a bullet through Hutchins and on the shoulder of the film’s director, Joel Souza.
After the fatal shooting, Zachry took the fired round and compared it with other ammunition from the box it was fired from, according to detective notes from an interview with Zachry. These bullets were marked as dummy bullets – which contain no gunpowder and are used as substitutes for real bullets on camera – and could be identified as dummy bullets by a clicking noise they make when fired. are shaken, according to detective notes.
“Sarah said she found some that were shaken and some that weren’t, leading her to believe there were more ‘live ammunition,'” the notes say.
Gutierrez-Reed told detectives she loaded the weapon for Baldwin’s character before lunch on the day of the fatal incident, taking the cartridges from a white box marked “mannequins” from a prop cart and checking that they bumped into each other or had a hole punched in the side, which is another way to distinguish a dummy round.
One, however, wouldn’t go in the gun, so she decided to clean the gun. In her interview with a detective that day, Gutierrez-Reed said she was cleaning the gun after lunch when Halls told the radio the gun was needed.
“She said she checked the cartridge before loading it into the gun, and it sounded fine to her, but she checked it while Dave was talking on the radio into his earpiece as she shook it,” reads -on in the detective’s report.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.