'Alec Baldwin was rehearsing pointing gun at camera'

Alec Baldwin was rehearsing pointing gun at camera, affidavit says

The details, woven together by Detective Joel Cano, provide a chilling account of how the shooting materialised on the production set

Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin. Credit: AFP File Photo

The director of Rust told investigators that he had been standing beside the film’s cinematographer as actor Alec Baldwin sat in a wooden church pew, rehearsing a scene in which he draws a gun and points it at the camera lens, according to an affidavit released Sunday night. The director, Joel Souza, said he then heard what “sounded like a whip and then loud pop.”

Souza saw the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, grab her midsection and start to stumble backward. Then he noticed he was bleeding from his shoulder. He and Hutchins had been shot by the lead actor in their film.

The new details emerged Sunday night when the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office released an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant to seize everything from camera memory cards to bone fragments and firearm discharge residue from the production site outside Santa Fe where the shooting took place Thursday.

The details, woven together by Detective Joel Cano, provide a chilling account of how the shooting materialised on a production set that had been beset by accidental gun discharges and labour disputes between producers and crew members.

Also Read | Alec Baldwin seen consoling family of slain cinematographer as set problems mount

“Upon making contact I did observe a visible injury to his right shoulder,” Cano said in the affidavit, describing how he had interviewed Souza on Friday afternoon, after the director had been treated for his injury. Hutchins, who sustained a gunshot wound to the chest area, had already been pronounced dead Thursday at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Souza told the detective about the protocols for firearm safety on the set. He said the guns are typically checked by the film’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and checked again by Dave Halls, the assistant director, who would then hand the gun to an actor. Souza said no one got searched for live ammunition on their person before or after scenes were filmed.

“Joel stated there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around the scene,” Cano wrote in the affidavit. They had been working on the same scene before lunch, and after lunch, Souza said, he was unsure whether the revolver had been rechecked.

Souza was grappling with delays the day of the shooting, after about six members of the camera crew had quit over late pay and safety conditions, the affidavit said. Another crew had quickly been hired, but the production was off to a late start because of the labor problems. Souza said only one camera was available for recording before the shooting.

Also Read | Alec Baldwin film set had previous accidental gun discharges, crew members say

Asked about how the employees were behaving, Souza told investigators that “everyone was getting along” and that there had been “no altercations” to his knowledge. He said that the crew broke for lunch before the shooting and had to be shuttled to a nearby area to eat. When they returned to the set, Souza said he was not sure if the firearm had been checked again.

The affidavit also includes notes from an interview with Reid Russell, a cameraman who was standing near Hutchins and Souza when the gun discharged.

Russell told the detective that after returning to the set from lunch, he had stepped outside for about five minutes; when he returned, according to the affidavit, Baldwin, Hutchins and Souza were setting up the scene and were already “in possession of the firearm.” Russell said he was not sure if the firearm had been inspected because he had been absent for those five minutes.

According to the affidavit, Halls grabbed the revolver from a gray, two-tiered tray set up by Gutierrez-Reed. Halls handed the gun to Baldwin and shouted, “cold gun,” which on a film set typically refers to an unloaded firearm.

While setting up the scene, the crew had to reposition the camera because there was a shadow. Russell told the detective that Baldwin was explaining how he was going to draw the gun, pulling it out from the holster, when the firearm discharged.

Russell said that Baldwin had been “very careful” with the firearm; during an earlier scene, Russell said, Baldwin had tried to ensure safety on set, making sure that a child wasn’t near him when he was discharging the gun. When Russell was asked about how members of the production team were behaving as they set up the scene, he said “everyone seemed to be getting along.”

Souza, the director, told the detective that because the crew had been setting up the scene when the gun discharged, the incident had not been filmed.

After the firearm was discharged, Russell told the detective he “remembered Joel having blood on his person, and Hutchins speaking and saying she couldn’t feel her legs.”

Check out latest DH videos here

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox