The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

FBI tests suggest gun in ‘Rust’ shooting could not fire without trigger pull

Actor Alec Baldwin has long maintained that he cocked the gun but did not pull the trigger on the New Mexico film set

Alec Baldwin gestures while talking with investigators following a fatal shooting last year on a movie set in Santa Fe, N.M. (Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/AP)

Recently released FBI forensics reports suggest the revolver handled by Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the “Rust” film set would not have discharged without its trigger being pulled while the gun was cocked.

In October 2021, Baldwin was holding a prop gun that discharged and killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza. It is unclear why a live bullet was in the gun.

Two months later, Baldwin told ABC News that though he cocked the gun, “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger.” The actor and producer said he felt “that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”

“I would never point a gun at anyone and then pull the trigger, never,” he said, adding, “Someone put a live bullet in the gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.”

The .45-caliber Long Colt F.lli Pietta single-action revolver that Baldwin was holding on the New Mexico set includes quarter- and half-cock safeties, “which are intended to prevent slippage of the hammer during cocking and the release of the hammer by a normal pull of the trigger,” according to the FBI report. During testing in these two positions, the weapon “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger. When enough pressure was applied to the trigger, each of these safety positions were overcome and the hammer fell.”

During testing in the fully cocked position, the revolver “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional.” The report notes that during testing, “portions of the trigger sear and cylinder stop fractured while the hammer was struck” which resulted in “the only successful discharge during this testing and it was attributed to the fracture of internal components, not the failure of the firearm or safety mechanisms.”

The report noted that “when an accidental discharge examination is performed, it may not be possible to recreate or duplicate all of the circumstances which led to the discharge of a firearm without a pull of the trigger.”

Luke Nikas, an attorney for Baldwin, said in a statement that the report “is being misconstrued.”

“The gun fired in testing only one time — without having to pull the trigger — when the hammer was pulled back and the gun broke in two different places,” Nikas said. “The FBI was unable to fire the gun in any prior test, even when pulling the trigger, because it was in such poor condition.”

The released documents also included a toxicology report for Hutchins, which came back negative, and a postmortem examination signed by New Mexico chief medical investigator Heather Jarrell, which listed the cinematographer’s cause of death as a “gunshot wound of the chest” and the manner as “accidental.”

“The critical report is the one from the medical examiner, who concluded that this was a tragic accident,” Nikas said. “This is the third time the New Mexico authorities have found that Alec Baldwin had no authority or knowledge of the allegedly unsafe conditions on the set, that he was told by the person in charge of safety on the set that the gun was ‘cold,’ and believed the gun was safe.”

In April, Rust Movie Productions was fined nearly $137,000, the maximum amount allowed under New Mexico law, after a report by New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau found the film’s crew violated safety rules and “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety.”

“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” James Kenney, New Mexico’s environment cabinet secretary, told CNN at the time. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”

The FBI declined to comment on the reports.

The documents did not address why a live round was in the revolver. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the matter remains ongoing.

Alec Baldwin prop gun shooting

Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured a director on a film set in New Mexico after discharging a prop firearm during the filming of “Rust." A script supervisor has sued producers, including Alec Baldwin, saying scene did not call for gun to be fired.

Loading...