The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has quietly removed the massive release of evidence in the “Rust” film shooting that the agency posted to its website last month.
In one of the film industry’s most unprecedented disasters, in October actor Alec Baldwin fired what he thought was an unloaded .45 Long Colt revolver at director of photography Halyna Hutchins, killing her. The same bullet injured director Joel Souza.
In the six months since, one question has lingered over the shooting: How did a live round enter the gun in Baldwin’s hand?
The investigation remains open. But last month, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office took the unusual step of releasing a massive trove of police interview recordings, several hours of body and dash camera videos, and hundreds of pages of incident reports and crime scene photos.
The release sparked immediate criticism from Hutchins’ family. Their lawyer, Brian Panish, accused the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office of violating state law by publicly releasing sensitive footage without giving the family a chance to review it first. Panish said the materials could also be used to bully Hutchins’ young son, and asked police to remove them from their website.
“The first time Mr. Hutchins saw the disturbing and unsettling video footage of his dying wife lying on the church floor was on Radar Online, an internet website,” a letter from Panish dated April 27 reads.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to multiple emails asking why the files were no longer accessible. The attorney for the Hutchins family did not respond to a request for comment on the evidence dump’s disappearance.
The footage shows a confusing and chaotic scene as police attempt to figure out why a young woman was dying, shot by a famous actor, on the set of a Western movie.
“I would rather it be some cholo shot on the side of the road,” one police officer said as he arrived on the set. “It would be way fuckin’ easier.”
The videos capture some of the most harrowing scenes stemming from the shooting, including the moment that Baldwin found out that Hutchins had died, and the distraught 25-year-old armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, struggling to understand how a gun in her charge became lethal.
“I’m like the only female armorer in the game, and I just fucked up my whole entire career,” Gutierrez-Reed says in one of the videos.
While incomplete, the investigation leaves no doubt that the revolver Baldwin held contained at least one live cartridge. Somehow, someone mixed in a handful of live rounds with fake ones on the set without anyone noticing the difference.
That lapse is unheard of in the film industry, where firearm accidents are rare and don’t typically involve real ammunition. Brandon Lee died on the set of “The Crow” when a blank pushed a projectile through an obstructed barrel — not a live round. Jon-Erik Hexum died in 1984 after shooting a blank into his right temple, which exploded with enough force for the wadding to puncture his skull.
It remains to be seen whether Baldwin or anyone else on the “Rust” set will face criminal charges. While the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office released the investigative files — over the objections of Hutchins’ family — the case hasn’t concluded.
But New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau faulted Rust Productions, LLC last month for demonstrating “plain indifference to the hazards associated with firearms by routinely failing to practice their own safety protocols.” Baldwin is not an owner of the company.
The agency fined the production company $136,793.
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