“Cold gun,” Halls yelled, according to the court record, indicating it did not contain a live round.
Unbeknown to him, the affidavit states, it did.
How what should have been a safe prop gun ended up firing a shot that killed Hutchins, 42, and injured the film’s director, Joel Souza, 48, is now at the center of the investigation into a shooting that has sparked debate about safety on sets. In the days since, some directors have begun calling on the industry to stop using firearms on set — including prop guns filled with blanks.
“We’ve been using the blanks less and less, and now it just felt like given what happened, any risk is too much risk at this point,” Alexi Hawley, a showrunner for the popular ABC police drama “The Rookie,” told The Washington Post on Saturday. Hawley announced Friday that no live firearms would be used while filming going forward. “There is no reason to use them anymore,” he said.
Deputies with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched to the Bonanza Creek Ranch on Thursday after crew members called 911, describing a chaotic scene in which two people were hit by a prop gun firing during a rehearsal.
“We need immediate help,” said a woman who identified herself as a script supervisor in a recording of the call obtained by the Associated Press.
When Deputy Nicholas LeFleur arrived, he discovered Hutchins had been shot in the chest and Souza in the shoulder. Hutchins was airlifted to a hospital, where she died; Souza was transported by ground and later released. Meanwhile, police secured the scene, with Gutierrez handing deputies the gun that had fired.
Baldwin, who was wearing Western-style clothing during his scene, changed attire and handed over his costume to investigators.
“These clothes appear to have blood stains,” the affidavit says.
Neither Gutierrez nor Halls immediately responded to requests for comment Saturday. A spokesperson for Baldwin told The Post on Saturday that he was not doing interviews.
Santa Fe-area District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said the investigation is still in a preliminary stage and it is unknown whether charges will be filed.
“We will look into all facts and evidence of the case with great discretion,” she said.
In the days leading up to the fatal incident, there were troubling signs regarding safety on the set. Two crew members told the Los Angeles Times that Baldwin’s stunt double had fired two rounds Oct. 16 from a gun he had been told was “cold.” Hours before Thursday’s shooting, several crew members walked off the production in protest over what they saw as subpar conditions and unpaid work, the Times reported.
Some of those tensions were apparent in the 911 call. The script supervisor said the “AD,” or assistant director, had yelled at her during lunch, asking about revisions.
“He’s supposed to check the guns,” she said. “He’s responsible for what happens on the set.”
Rust Movie Productions, the company overseeing filming, said in a statement they had not been alerted of the concerns and that “safety of our cast and crew is the top priority.”
“Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” the company told media outlets.
Despite the apparent danger, some filmmakers insist on using live prop guns, saying they more closely capture the sound and look of a weapon firing than computer-generated imaging.
Bill Davis, a veteran film-set armorer, said Saturday that it was almost certain that Hutchins had been killed by a bullet. Blanks fire wax plugs, he said, which dissolve from the heat of firing and would not be able to penetrate a bone or inner organ — though at a distance of under 20 feet, particles from a blank can cause skin and eye damage.
Rule No. 1 for armorers, he said, is never to allow live ammunition on a set.
“It’s basic stuff,” he said. “How did that live round get on set? You shall not have live ammunition on a movie set, ever. It’s not a may — it’s a shall.”
In a recent podcast interview, Gutierrez, going by the name Hannah Reed, described working as head armorer for the first time in a film featuring Nicolas Cage. The 24-year-old said that as the daughter of Thell Reed, a well-known Hollywood armorer, she had grown up around guns, though admitted she felt anxious about her first time as head armorer.
“I was really nervous about it at first, and I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure I was ready,” she said. “But doing it, it went very smoothly.”
Armorers handle all weapons on film, TV, and stage productions, providing safety instruction to other members of the crew and cast. There are no degree programs to train them, with most serving apprenticeships for a year or so.
Certification regulations for armorers vary widely from state to state, ranging from strict to nonexistent. Even in states with well-defined regulations, however, such as California, there’s often little enforcement, Davis said.
In New Mexico, according to a post on the website of Local 480 IATSE, the film technicians’ union, a licensed armorer must be on set when weapons are used.
Jeffrey Harris, a lawyer in Savannah, Ga., who has represented victims of film-set injuries, said every film set has posted safety bulletins, and proper handling of weapons is always right at the top. It’s not that new laws are needed, he said, but that existing rules have to be obeyed.
If crews follow basic safety precautions — no ammunition allowed, no guns directed at people, redundant checks to be sure chambers and barrels are clear — “everybody should be fine,” he said.
“It just seems this is a pretty clear violation of basic firearm safety,” he said.
Mike Lubke, a fight choreographer for films and theater based in St. Paul, Minn., said that staging gunplay in a cramped indoor setting — such as the set building where Hutchins was killed — requires extra care.
He said it is essential to have as few crew members in the room as possible. The crew should make sure no one is in the firing lane. And they should carefully choreograph the movement of the gun before and after it is fired, because sometimes actors’ trigger fingers slip prematurely, and sometimes, especially with blanks, the discharge can be delayed.
If the camera does not have to move, even the camera operator can be elsewhere.
“I’ll admit, you can’t always optimize the situation,” he said. “There’s always some give and take.”
Lubke also pointed out that guns can be modified by a gunsmith so that they will accept blanks but not bullets, but productions don’t always go to that trouble and expense.
Hutchins was considered a rising star in the cinematographer world and leaves behind a young son and husband, who shared a tribute to his wife on Twitter.
“Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words,” Matt Hutchins wrote. “Our loss is enormous.”
The IATSE Local 600 tweeted that it would host candlelight vigils for Hutchins on Saturday and Sunday nights in Albuquerque and Los Angeles, respectively.
Baldwin has said his “heart is broken” for Hutchins’s 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,” he tweeted Friday.
In his first remarks since the shooting, Souza told Deadline he was “gutted” by Hutchins’s death.
“She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch, and always pushed me to be better,” he said. “My thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time.”
Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.