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‘Rust’ crew member: Alec Baldwin careful with guns before fatal shooting

The cameraman said Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he he drew his gun and pointed it at the camera when cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot.
A Santa Fe County Sheriff's deputy briefly talks with a security guard at the entrance to the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday. A camera operator told authorities that Alec Baldwin had been careful with weapons on the set of the film "Rust" before the actor shot and killed a cinematographer with a gun he'd been told was safe to use, court records released Sunday show.
A Santa Fe County Sheriff's deputy briefly talks with a security guard at the entrance to the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday. A camera operator told authorities that Alec Baldwin had been careful with weapons on the set of the film "Rust" before the actor shot and killed a cinematographer with a gun he'd been told was safe to use, court records released Sunday show. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]
Published Oct. 25

LOS ANGELES — A camera operator told authorities that Alec Baldwin had been careful with weapons on the set of the film “Rust” before the actor shot and killed a cinematographer with a gun he’d been told was safe to use, court records released Sunday show.

Cameraman Reid Russell told a detective that Baldwin was rehearsing a scene Thursday in which he was set to draw his gun while sitting in a church pew and point it at the camera. Russell said he was unsure whether the weapon was checked before it was handed to Baldwin.

Related: 'Rust' film crew voiced complaints before fatal on-set shooting

The camera wasn’t rolling when the gun went off, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Russell told a detective according to a search warrant affidavit.

Jamie Frazer, who works in costumes and is a member of IATSE Local 705, places a candle during a vigil on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 at IATSE Local 80 in Burbank, California for Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot accidentally by Alec Baldwin on the "Rust" movie set at Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.
Jamie Frazer, who works in costumes and is a member of IATSE Local 705, places a candle during a vigil on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 at IATSE Local 80 in Burbank, California for Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot accidentally by Alec Baldwin on the "Rust" movie set at Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. [ MYUNG J. CHUN | Los Angeles Times ]

Authorities said Friday that the assistant director, Dave Halls, had handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun,” indicating it was safe to use. When asked about how Baldwin treated firearms on the set, Russell said the actor was very careful, citing an instance when Baldwin made sure a child actor was not near him when a gun was being discharged.

The affidavit released Sunday also includes statements by director Joel Souza, who was standing behind Hutchins and was wounded.

It detailed the moments before the shooting and shows that there was turmoil on the set the day of the shooting. Several members of the camera crew walked off the production in a dispute over payment and lodging, Russell said, and he was left with a lot of work to do. Only one camera was available to shoot, and it had to be moved because the light had shifted and there was a shadow.

Souza said that he was focused on how the scene would appear on camera. He said he recalled hearing the phrase “cold gun” being used before the shooting.

Alec Baldwin speaks on the phone in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office in Santa Fe, N.M., after he was questioned about a shooting on the set of the film "Rust" on the outskirts of Santa Fe, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, officials said. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
Alec Baldwin speaks on the phone in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office in Santa Fe, N.M., after he was questioned about a shooting on the set of the film "Rust" on the outskirts of Santa Fe, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, officials said. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP) [ JIM WEBER/THE NEW MEXICAN | AP ]

He said the scene they were shooting did not call for the use of live rounds.

Souza described the gunshot as sounding like a whip and a loud pop.

On Sunday, a crew member who worked with Halls on another project said she had raised safety concerns about him in 2019.

Maggie Goll, a prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, said in a statement that she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Hulu’s “Into the Dark” series in 2019 over concerns about Halls’ behavior on set. Goll said in a phone interview Sunday that Halls disregarded safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics and tried to continue filming after the supervising pyrotechnician lost consciousness on set.

Halls has not returned phone calls and email messages seeking comment.

This aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., Saturday. Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of a Western being filmed at the ranch on Thursday, killing the cinematographer, officials said.
This aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., Saturday. Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of a Western being filmed at the ranch on Thursday, killing the cinematographer, officials said. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]

The fatal shooting and previous experiences point to larger safety issues that need to be addressed, Goll said, adding that crew member safety and wellbeing were top issues in recent contract negotiations between a union that represents film and TV workers and a major producers’ group.

“This situation is not about Dave Halls. ... It’s in no way one person’s fault,” she said. “It’s a bigger conversation about safety on set and what we are trying to achieve with that culture.”

The film’s chief electrician Serge Svetnoy blamed producers for Hutchins’ death in an emotional Facebook post on Sunday. Svetnoy said he had worked with Hutchins on multiple films and faulted “negligence and unprofessionalism” among those handling weapons on the set. He said producers hired an inexperienced armorer.

Hollywood professionals say they’re baffled by the circumstances and production crews have quickly stepped up safety measures.

Jeffrey Wright, who has worked on projects including the James Bond franchise and the upcoming movie “The Batman,” was acting with a weapon on the set of “Westworld” when news broke of the shooting Thursday at a New Mexico ranch. “We were all pretty shocked. And it informed what we did from that moment on,” he said in an interview Sunday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

A security guard manning the entrance to the Bonanza Creek Ranch film set locks the gate after turning away workers who came to pick up equipment in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday. A camera operator told authorities that Alec Baldwin had been careful with weapons on the set of the film "Rust." Baldwin shot and killed a cinematographer with a gun he'd been told was safe to use, court records released Sunday show.
A security guard manning the entrance to the Bonanza Creek Ranch film set locks the gate after turning away workers who came to pick up equipment in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday. A camera operator told authorities that Alec Baldwin had been careful with weapons on the set of the film "Rust." Baldwin shot and killed a cinematographer with a gun he'd been told was safe to use, court records released Sunday show. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]

“I don’t recall ever being handed a weapon that was not cleared in front of me — meaning chamber open, barrel shown to me, light flashed inside the barrel to make sure that it’s cleared,” Wright said. “Clearly, that was a mismanaged set.”

Actor Ray Liotta agreed with Wright that the checks on firearms are usually extensive.

“They always — that I know of — they check it so you can see,” Liotta said. “They give it to the person you’re pointing the gun at, they do it to the producer, they show whoever is there that it doesn’t work.”

A vigil for Hutchins was held Sunday in Southern California, where attendees exchanged tearful hugs and speakers echoed calls for heightened safety standards.

Photos of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins are displayed before a vigil held to honor her at Albuquerque Civic Plaza on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hutchins was killed on set while filming the movie "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico on Oct. 21, 2021. The film's star and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm that...
Photos of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins are displayed before a vigil held to honor her at Albuquerque Civic Plaza on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hutchins was killed on set while filming the movie "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico on Oct. 21, 2021. The film's star and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm that... [ SAM WASSON | Getty Images North America ]

Baldwin, who is known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” has described the killing as a “tragic accident.”

By RYAN PEARSON and GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press. Flaccus reported from Portland, Oregon. Michelle Eaton in Newport Beach, California, contributed to this report.