‘Rust’ Investigators Release Crime Scene Photos, Await Key Evidence

Six months after Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer on the set of the movie ‘Rust,’ raising questions about who was guilty and how live ammunition arrived on set, the County Sheriff’s Office Santa Fe said Monday it was still missing key evidence, including ballistics analysis, which it said it needed to complete its criminal investigation.

The sheriff’s office discussed waiting for evidence as it moved to release a trove of records relating to the ‘Rust’ investigation, including witness interviews; reverse and dashboard camera images; crime scene photos; text messages between crew members in the days before and after shooting; and videos of Mr. Baldwin practicing with the gun in the church where the fatal shooting occurred.

The bureau has been investigating the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, who was shot and killed in New Mexico on October 21 during rehearsal for a scene that required Mr Baldwin to shoot a line old-fashioned one-shoulder revolver. the case he had been told contained no live ammunition.

The gun exploded, discharging a bullet which killed Ms Hutchins and injured Joel Souza, the film‘s director. Since then, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office has been gathering evidence and investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

Files released on Monday included new details of the case, including a report of a phone call an investigator, Detective Alexandria Hancock, had on November 3 with Mr Baldwin. Mr Baldwin said he pulled the hammer of the gun about three-quarters of the way back and then let go of the hammer, at which point the gun discharged, according to the report.

Mr Baldwin told Detective Hancock his finger had been on the trigger but he had not pulled the trigger, he said.

Detective Hancock wrote that she tried to explain to him that if his “finger was on the trigger, and if he pulled the hammer with his thumb, his index finger might still have enough pressure on the trigger that he supports it.”

She added that “Alec advised never to try to pull the trigger on a gun unless they were rolling the camera.”

But when releasing the new documents, the sheriff’s office said it was still missing important building blocks from its investigation to be able to forward the case to the Santa Fe County prosecutor for review.

Sheriff Adan Mendoza said in a statement that “various elements of the investigation remain outstanding,” including the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s firearms and ballistics forensics, DNA and latent fingerprint analysis, a report from the New Mexico Medical Examiner’s Office and analysis of Mr. Baldwin’s phone data, which was extracted by investigators from Suffolk County, NY

“Once these investigative materials are provided to the sheriff’s office, we can complete the investigation for forwarding to the Santa Fe District Attorney for review,” Sheriff Mendoza said in a statement released by his office.

Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement Monday that although investigators have sent part of their investigation to her office, detectives cannot send a completed investigation until they have not received certain reports.

“Once we have received the completed investigation and conducted a thorough and deliberate review of all evidence, a criminal charge decision will be made,” Ms Carmack-Altwies said in the statement.

The University of New Mexico, where Ms Hutchins’ autopsy is underway, has not yet completed its report, spokesman Mark Rudi said.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Juan Rios, said the investigation was taking no longer than normal for what was “a complicated and convoluted matter”.

He said the office decided to release the filings en masse due to multiple requests from the media and attorneys involved in the case, and because the office wanted to show what was left unresolved.

“It’s an update,” he said. “We wanted to identify what’s left.”

The FBI’s National Press Office declined to comment on how long it took to complete its firearms and ballistics investigation, and directed inquiries to local law enforcement officials. Mr Rios said the FBI had indicated it was “looking at a few weeks until it is able to get back to us with anything” on its analysis.

Despite months of collecting evidence, it remains unclear how live ammunition ended up on the film set and how one entered the weapon Mr Baldwin was handling.

Investigators have released copies of text messages and emails taken from crew members’ phones that revealed discussions of safety issues before the fatal shooting. Lane Luper, a member of the film crew who left the set with several other colleagues on the morning of October 21, wrote an email to production managers saying that “things often play out very quickly and loosely. “while filming the shootings. In text messages, the film’s prop master Sarah Zachry discussed two accidental discharges; one involved her aiming a gun at the ground near her foot, and another involved a stuntman.

The sheriff’s office said it still lacked analysis of data from Mr Baldwin’s phone, which it turned over to Suffolk County police in January.

Mr. Baldwin agreed to a process in which he handed over his iPhone and password, and the phone’s data would be reviewed by officials from the Suffolk County Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office before the relevant data was released. not be forwarded to New Mexico authorities. . Mr. Rios said Suffolk County investigators have yet to provide New Mexico investigators with the information from Mr. Baldwin’s phone.

Last week, New Mexico state regulators blamed the film’s producers, concluding that the film’s management’s indifference to the dangers of handling firearms on set resulted in the death of Ms. Hutchins, and they fined the production company $136,793, the maximum allowed by state law.

Footage from an officer’s body camera showed Mr Souza, the film’s director, in the emergency room being treated for his gunshot wound shortly after the shooting, giving an interview just before being given painkillers.

“I looked up and saw the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, with blood streaming down her back,” Mr Souza told the officer. “Do you know anything about what’s going on with her?” Is she okay?”

Footage continued as medical professionals began working on Mr Souza, removing the bullet from his body.

“Is Halyna still alive? We hear Mr. Souza say. “Please tell me she’s still alive. »

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