The prop gun Alec Baldwin was using on the set of Rust on Thursday was reportedly being used recreationally by the cast and crew when the cameras were not rolling. On Thursday, Baldwin thought the gun was safe to rehearse with, but it was loaded with live ammunition. He fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died after being hospitalized, and wounded director Joel Souza. Revelations continue to come to light, revealing questionable conditions on the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
On Saturday, sources connected to the Rust production told TMZ that crew members used the same gun in the shooting incident off the set for what "amounted to target practice." When the gun was being used during these alleged target practice sessions, it was loaded with real bullets, which could be how a live round ended up in the weapon on Thursday. One of the sources told TMZ that when police arrived at the scene Thursday, they found live ammunition and blanks stored in the same area, which is another possible explanation for how a real bullet ended up in the weapon.
Baldwin was told by assistant director Dave Halls that the gun was "cold," meaning that there should have been no ammunition inside the weapon, when he handed it to the actor-producer, according to a search warrant filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department on Friday. Hutchins was shot in the chest and died from her wounds. Souza was wounded and has since been released from the hospital.
Three members at the scene on Thursday told the Los Angeles Times the prop gun was accidentally fired twice on Oct. 16 when Baldwin's stunt double was also told it was "cold." A crew member told the Times there should have been an investigation, but there was "no assurance that it wouldn't happen again." Sources also told the Times Friday that union camera crew members walked off the set hours before the shooting on Thursday to protest working conditions, and they were replaced by non-union workers.
The armorer on the film was Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, who admitted in a podcast interview last month that she wasn't sure she was ready to take the job. It is only her second film, following Nicolas Cage's The Old Way. "I almost didn't take the job because I wasn't sure if I was ready, but doing it, it went really smoothly," Gutierrez-Reed said on the podcast Voices of the West. She was involved with the film for months, as she posted an article about the movie on Instagram in May. However, it's not clear if she was among the crew members who walked off the set before the shooting. Gutierrez-Reed is the daughter of legendary Western film armorer Thell Reed.
Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that the prop master who handled the gun before Halls gave it to Baldwin was only "just brought in" before the shooting, according to sources. The unidentified crew member was hired to replace one of the other crew members who walked off the set earlier in the day. The shooting happened about six hours after the half a dozen camera crew members reportedly walked off the set.