The latest on the Alec Baldwin prop gun shooting

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:36 PM ET, Mon October 25, 2021
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7:26 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

Crew members describe unsafe conditions on previous set before "Rust' assistant director was fired

From CNN’s Julia Vargas Jones

Three crew members who worked alongside “Rust” assistant director David Halls on another movie where a gun “unexpectedly discharged” in 2019 detailed to CNN what they called unsafe conditions before Halls was fired from the project.

The three crew members recalled details of an incident during the filming of “Freedom’s Path” where an 1800’s-style muzzle-loading rifle unexpectedly fired during a scene, resulting in a boom operator suffering inner ear injuries due to the sound of the explosion. 

The crew members, who did not wish to be identified for fear of industry reprisal, said they were concerned for the safety of crew and cast members on set even before the gun misfire. 

All three said the production did not hold regular safety meetings, contrary to typical industry practice.  

“He was a person with enough red flags that his career should have been done with already. Yet he was still out there, putting crew into outrageous situations. It’s tough to think that Halyna could have just as well been one of our crews,” one of them said. “It was just too close for comfort.”

Rocket Soul said in a statement it “cannot comment on any conversations that may or may not have taken place individually between Dave Halls and crew members.” CNN has asked the company about the crew members' statements regarding regular safety meetings.

Halls, as well as Rockhill Studios, another production company for “Freedom’s Path,” did not respond to CNN requests for comment. 

According to the three crew members, an armorer was not on set at the time of the 2019 incident, a break from protocol; instead, a background actor in the production was put in charge of handling the firearm for the scene, the crew members said. 

In a statement to CNN, Rocket Soul Studios denied that a background actor was hired as an armorer, saying that an armorer was to be on set in every instance a gun was present.

The company said Halls was removed from the set and fired from the production. 

“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time,” it said.

“Upon wrapping production for the day, Dave Halls was officially terminated and given the specific reasons for his termination,” The company continued. “Dave was very remorseful for the events, and understood the reasons he was being terminated. A new assistant director as well as a new armorer were hired for the duration of principal photography.”

In the moments before the accidental discharge, one crew member said the gun was announced as a “no fire” or “cold weapon” for the scene. A second crew member said they asked multiple times if the gun was cleared for use in the shot, and did not receive a clear answer.

The two crew members said some rifles used in the making of the movie had been packed with gunpowder but did not contain projectiles. The rifle that misfired was not supposed to be loaded at all, the two crew members said.

The accidental discharge disoriented a boom microphone operator, who suffered injuries to their inner ear and required medical attention after experiencing hearing loss and balance issues, according to the crew members.

When reached by phone Sunday, the boom operator acknowledged the incident but did not comment further on the matter.  

The film, “Freedom’s Path” is set to release in 2022, according to the Rocket Soul website.

7:51 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

Law enforcement waiting for coroner’s report to help determine what killed Halyna Hutchins

From CNN’s Josh Campbell

Attendees kneel at a candlelight vigil for the late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on October 24 in Burbank, California.
Attendees kneel at a candlelight vigil for the late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on October 24 in Burbank, California. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s department investigators are still waiting on the forensic report from the coroner’s office which they hope will identify the type of projectile that killed Halyna Hutchins, according to a law enforcement source close the investigation.

Hutchins died and and director Joel Souza was injured after actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm on the set of the movie "Rust" on Thursday.

7:43 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

Production on "Rust" to pause indefinitely

From CNN's Chloe Melas

The Bonanza Creek Ranch is seen in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 23.
The Bonanza Creek Ranch is seen in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 23. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

In a letter to the cast and crew of "Rust" sent Sunday, the production team behind the project announced it would pause work on the New Mexico set of the movie "at least until the investigations are complete."

"Our hearts are with all of you, as we all go through this tragic time and mourn the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Halyna Hutchins," the letter from The Rust Production Team — obtained by CNN — began. "We are family and we must stand beside each other as families do in difficult times. We remain in close touch with Halyna’s family and commend the strength they show in the face of unspeakable tragedy. It is beyond an inspiration." 

The production team said they are cooperating with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office investigation and conducting an internal review of safety protocols. 

"As we go through this crisis, we have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete," the letter stated. "Although our hearts are broken, and it is hard to see beyond the horizon, this is, at the moment, a pause rather than an end. The spirit that brought us all to this special place remains."

Grief support resources for the cast and crew were also shared in the letter, and the production team announced they will be making a donation to the Halyna Hutchins Scholarship Fund established by her family.

7:50 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

"Rust" assistant director was fired from previous movie after gun incident injured crew member

From CNN’s Julia Vargas Jones

David Halls
David Halls (From IMDB)

The assistant director on the movie “Rust,” who handed a prop gun to Alec Baldwin before the fatal shooting last week, was previously fired from a film production after a gun incident injured a crew member, the movie’s production company told CNN.

Dave Halls was serving as assistant director on the film “Freedom’s Path” in 2019, when a gun “unexpectedly discharged” on set, causing a sound crew member to recoil from the blast, halting production, the production company Rocket Soul Studios said Monday.

The sound crew member was evaluated by an on-set medic and advised to seek medical treatment. The crew member returned to the production a few days later, Rocket Soul said.

Following the incident, Halls was removed from the set and fired from the production, the company said.

“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time,” it said.

“Upon wrapping production for the day, Dave Halls was officially terminated and given the specific reasons for his termination,” The company continued. “Dave was very remorseful for the events, and understood the reasons he was being terminated. A new assistant director as well as a new armorer were hired for the duration of principal photography. Production of the film finished successfully.”

When reached by CNN, the sound crew member did not want to comment on the matter. Halls could not be reached for comment.

 Watch:

3:57 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

"The Rookie" changes prop weapons policy following fatal shooting on "Rust" set

From CNN's Sandra Gonzalez

Mekia Cox, Nathan Fillion and Melissa O’Neil star in “The Rookie.”
Mekia Cox, Nathan Fillion and Melissa O’Neil star in “The Rookie.” (Raymond Liu/ABC)

One ABC TV series has instated a new policy that will ban the use of so-called "live" weapons on set, following the fatal shooting on a movie set in New Mexico.

The showrunner on ABC's "The Rookie," a cop drama starring Nathan Fillion, sent a letter to the cast and crew explaining the change over the weekend. CNN reviewed the text of the letter, provided by sources close to production.

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report the change.

In the letter, showrunner Alexi Hawley said the events on the set of "Rust," which left director of photography Halyna Hutchins dead and director Joel Souza injured, prompted the change in policy.

"The Rookie's" new policy will mandate the use of airsoft guns, which are replica guns with reduced power that typically fire plastic pellets.

Hawley said in his letter that other effects will be added using computers in the post-production process.

Weapons expert Ben Simmons previously explained to CNN that typically three types of prop guns are used on set:

  • Completely fake firearms (that look real but can't fire anything)
  • Deactivated firearms
  • Real firearms, which are loaded with blanks and mimic actual shooting, from flash to recoil

"The safety of our cast and crew is too important. Any risk is too much risk," Hawley wrote.

CNN has contacted representatives of ABC and "The Rookie" for comment.

The investigation into the deadly incident on the set of "Rust" is ongoing.

Over the weekend, it was reported that actor Alec Baldwin had been given a prop firearm during a rehearsal and been told it was a so-called "cold gun," a term meant to indicate the weapon didn't have live rounds, according to an affidavit for a search warrant for the movie set filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office and obtained by CNN affiliate KOAT.

According to the affidavit, Baldwin was handed one of three prop guns by assistant director David Halls that were set up in a cart by an armorer for the movie "Rust."

Halls did not know there were "live rounds" in the gun, the affidavit said.

It has not yet been determined what the gun Baldwin fired was loaded with, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.

2:50 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

"Rust" crew member cites "negligence and unprofessionalism" for fatal shooting on movie set

From CNN's Stella Chan and Chole Melas

A crew member on the set of “Rust,” Serge Svetnoy, says the death of cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins on set, was a result of  “negligence and unprofessionalism.”

On a public Facebook post Sunday Svetnoy wrote, “I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Halyna (Hutchins) during this fatal shot that took her life and injured the director Joel Souza.”  

He added that he “was holding her in my arms while she was dying,” and “Her blood was on my hands.”

Though Svetnoy doesn’t name her, search warrant documents identified Hannah Gutierrez as the armorer who prepared the gun for Alec Baldwin.

“I'm sure that we had the professionals in every department, but one - the department that was responsible for the weapons. There is no way a twenty-four-year-old woman can be a professional with armory,” wrote Svetnoy. “Professionals are the people who have spent years on sets, people who know this job from A to Z; These are the people who have the safety on set at the level of reflexes; they do not need to be told to put the sandbag on a tripod, fix the ladder on the stage, or fence off the explosion site. They have it in their blood. I'm calling out to the Producers!”

Gutierrez has not responded to CNN's requests for comment.

On a podcast last month, Gutierrez said she had recently finished her first job as head armorer on a film titled "The Old Way" with Nicolas Cage, and that her father had been teaching her about guns since she was 16.

Svetnoy said cost-cutting sacrifices safety. “To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job, and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well."  

Svetnoy mentions his trauma and the pain of those left behind. “I do not wish anyone to go through what I went through, what her husband @Matt Hutchins and her son Andros went through, and the actor Alec Baldwin, who has been handed a gun on set. He has to live with the thought that he took the life of the human because of unprofessional people.” 

CNN has reached out to Svetnoy to elaborate on his criticisms.

The movie's producers did not reply to CNN directly but, a source close to production tells CNN "His Facebook post has a lot of misinformation in it... he said they were penny pinching and didn't hire good people, but this is a union certified set." 

"When it comes to safety there were three full safety meetings held since they started production -- and they had a full safety meeting the day of the accident. This notion that no one was addressing safety from covid protocol to weapons on set and procedures is not true. These are not 5 -minute (meetings)," the source said.

2:40 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

Alec Baldwin's wife posts first public comments on "Rust" shooting incident

From CNN's Lisa France

Hilaria Baldwin has addressed the “Rust” set shooting for the first time publicly.

The wife of Alec Baldwin posted a statement on her verified Instagram account Monday.

“My heart is with Halyna,” Hilaria Baldwin wrote in her post, referring to filmmaker Halyna Hutchins, who died after Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on set last week. "Her husband. Her son. Their family and loved ones. And my Alec."

“It’s said, ‘there are no words' because it’s impossible to express shock and heartache of such a tragic accident,” she wrote. “Heartbreak. Loss. Support.”

Hutchins, the film's director of photography, died after Baldwin discharged a prop firearm on set Thursday. Director Joel Souza was injured.

Read the full Instagram post below:

2:37 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

There were 2 accidental gun discharges on the set of "Rust" before the fatal shooting, reports say

Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

There were at least two accidental prop gun discharges on the set of the Alec Baldwin film "Rust" in the days prior to the shooting that led to the death of its cinematographer, according to multiple news reports. 

The discharges occurred on Oct. 16, when crew members accidentally fired two rounds after being told the gun was “cold,” the Los Angeles Times reported, citing two crew members who reportedly witnessed the incident. It was not known if the discharges included live rounds. 

No one was injured in the accidental discharges, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The movie’s producers said in a statement Friday it was not aware of prop safety issues prior to the fatal shooting.

"The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. 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. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time,” Rust Movie Productions LLC said. 

Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on Thursday during a rehearsal, killing Halyna Hutchins and wounding the film’s director Joel Souza. 

A search warrant affidavit filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said Baldwin was handed a gun by Dave Halls, the film’s assistant director, who did not know the weapon contained “live rounds.” Baldwin has said he is cooperating with the investigation into the shooting.

2:39 p.m. ET, October 25, 2021

A look back at Halyna Hutchins' career and love of filmmaking 

From CNN's Lisa France

A woman lays down a candle during a vigil for cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, on Sunday, October 24, in Burbank, California.
A woman lays down a candle during a vigil for cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, on Sunday, October 24, in Burbank, California. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Halyna Hutchins died doing what she loved on the set of the film "Rust."

And that love is being returned as colleagues and friends remember the journalist turned cinematographer who died after the film's star and executive producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on set in New Mexico last week. Hutchins was 42.

The film's director Joel Souza, 48, was also injured during the incident.

Hutchins participated in a Blackmagic Collective live stream in April where she talked about her filmmaking.

"I like stories that [are] rooted in reality or real characters, but my favorite part is actually creating the world where the story will exist," she said.

A native of Ukraine, Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, "surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines," according to her website. She obtained a graduate degree in International Journalism from Kyiv National University.

She worked as an investigative journalist with British documentary productions in Europe, where she did feature documentaries for the BBC and Discovery prior to moving to New York City.

"In New York I really took on photography," Hutchins said in an interview for "Why Women Are Excelling in Hollywood" posted on YouTube in June. "Fashion photography, I did a lot and just wanted to make art films, actually. Just something really big scale, beautiful, just art house cinema."

"When I moved to Los Angeles, I tried to figure out what the next step would be," she said. "Where do you start when you don't know anybody? Where do you begin?"

That led her to a UCLA extension course on directing "just to get my feet wet," Hutchins recalled, where she quickly figured out she loved cinematography more than directing.

"I shot like 15 shorts there," she said. "So, I kept shooting and I thought that's probably my calling."

Hutchins worked with a lighting company and then later attended what she called "the best institution for my profession," the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory, where she graduated in 2015.

After her death, actor Jensen Ackles, who worked with Hutchins on "Rust," posted on Instagram that he had donated to an AFI scholarship fund in her name.

"Earlier last week I felt compelled to tell Halyna just how awesome I thought she was. I told her how incredible I thought her camera shots were and just how exciting it was to watch her and her teamwork," he wrote. "Truly. She laughed and said thank you and gave me a hug. I'll forever be thankful we had that moment."

During the Blackmagic Collective live stream, Hutchins shared what attracted her to different films.

"The base of the characters is the most exciting part for me," she said. "If I can get on a journey with the characters. Genre doesn't really matter, it's just the environment you create around it to convey the character's journey."

"If I want to see this movie, I would like to make it," she said.

When asked during the "Why Women Are Excelling in Hollywood" interview what it was about cinematography that attracted her, Hutchins had a heartfelt answer.

"It's a passion for sure," she said. "Once you get the bug, you can't get out of it."