Thursday Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography of a western film in production in New Mexico (United States) entitled Rust, she died after being shot by American actor Alec Baldwin with a prop weapon. The director of the film, Joel Souza, was also injured, but has already been discharged from the hospital. There are still many things to clarify about the incident – the investigations are still ongoing – but in the last few hours the police have released a first reconstruction.
According to police, Baldwin used a weapon that was handed to him by David Halls, an assistant director. The weapon was in a slide along with two other pistols; on handing it to Baldwin, Halls yelled “cold gun” to signal that the gun contained no real bullets and could be handled safely. When Baldwin, shortly thereafter, actually used the gun while rehearsing a scene, according to the police reconstruction the weapon fired a real bullet, which hit Hutchins in the chest and injured Souza, who was behind her, in the shoulder. . Hutchins died shortly after in the hospital.
The police reconstruction also says the assistant director did not know the gun contained live bullets when he handed it to Baldwin. The weapon had been prepared and placed on the trolley by the gun person in the film, along with a holstered belt used in the scene. After the shot was fired, the gun was returned to the person responsible for the guns, who extracted the cartridge case, which was then handed over to the police.
In the United States it is expected that on sets where real weapons are used – and it often happens, for reasons of greater realism – there will be a qualified person with the role of “head armor” (it can be translated as “chief gunsmith”, and is a title for which a license is required). His job is to coordinate and supervise the use of weapons during shooting, and to ensure that it is done safely.
According to BBC, who obtained a document listing the crew members summoned to the set for the day the incident occurred, the person responsible for the weapons on the set of Rust it would be Hanna Gutierrez Reed, 24 years old. According to LA Times was in his second assignment in this role.
In general, the safety protocols regarding the weapons on the sets are very strict: in addition to the supervision by the responsible person, it is expected that the cast members receive precise information and training on the behaviors to be followed in the presence of the weapons and during their use. Furthermore, real ammunition should never be used.
When real guns are used on sets, they are loaded with blank ammo, which can still be dangerous. Blank cartridges, in fact, contain gunpowder (even if the actual bullet is replaced by wax or cotton wool), which produces a blaze. Usually when you hear about firearm injuries on sets you are talking about hand burns, safety officials explained at New York Times.
Baldwin wore western-style clothing during filming, and handed what he wore during the scene to the police. According to the agent who wrote the report, they were stained with blood.
All weapons, ammunition, video equipment and costumes worn by the actors while filming the shooting scene were seized for investigation.
Shooting on the film, which was supposed to finish in November, has been suspended. Many newspapers in these hours are comparing Hutchins’ killing to the 1993 set incident involving Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee: he died at 28 after being hit by a bullet that went off together with a blank cartridge during shooting of the film The Raven.