Criminal Charges 'on the Table' in Alec Baldwin Film Shooting

DA says gun was real, shouldn't be referred to as prop
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2021 12:54 AM CDT
Updated Oct 27, 2021 7:06 AM CDT
Criminal Charges 'on the Table' in Fatal Film Shooting
A bouquet of flowers is left to honor cinematographer Halyna Hutchins outside the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – Criminal charges could be filed in the fatal shooting on the New Mexico set of an Alec Baldwin western last week, though the investigation into what went wrong could take "weeks, if not months," the Santa Fe County district attorney said Tuesday. "We haven’t ruled out anything," Mary Carmack-Altwies said in an interview with the New York Times. "Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table." She says the number of bullets on the set of Rust was "enormous," so ballistics will determine what type of round was actually in the gun when it went off as Baldwin rehearsed with it, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

As far as the gun, it was "legit," the DA says, noting that the term "prop gun" can confuse people. This was a real gun, though "antique-era," a detail that Brandon Lee's fiancee also previously pointed out. Authorities say the film's armorer had placed the gun on a cart outside the church where Baldwin was rehearsing, and an assistant director took the gun off the cart and handed it to Baldwin, telling him it was a "cold gun," and therefore safe with no live rounds. Both the armorer and that particular AD have since come under scrutiny. As for reports that crew members may have been using guns from the film, with live ammunition, for target practice, the DA says that's not been confirmed. Authorities are set to discuss initial findings at a Wednesday press conference, KSAT reports.

A Los Angeles trial attorney not involved in the case tells Yahoo News he doubts Baldwin would be charged for the accidental discharge: "He was handed a gun and he was told it was a cold gun, meaning that someone has looked at it and [found] there's no ammunition in it. And I think he has the right to rely upon that, to assume that it also is cold." But, as NPR notes, Baldwin was also a producer on the film, and he could possibly face some sort of liability, possibly due to civil lawsuits, in that role. That's the tune a defense attorney (also not involved in the case) who spoke to Fox News is singing as well: "Alec Baldwin is presumably in charge because he’s the producer and has a great voice on the budget here," and authorities will probably look at whether producers took shortcuts on safety in order to cut costs. (Read more Alec Baldwin stories.)

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