The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has completed its investigation into Alec Baldwin’s fatal accidental shooting of the cinematographer of the low-budget western “Rust” last year and referred the case to local prosecutor Mary Carmack-Altwies.
“The DA and her team of investigators and prosecutors will now begin a thorough review of the information and evidence to make a considered and timely decision on whether to pursue charges,” said Heather Brewer, spokeswoman for Carmack-Altwies, in an explanation. “As with all cases handled by the District Attorney, her focus will be to maintain the integrity of the process, enforce the laws of the State of New Mexico, and deliver justice.”
According to a person familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity, the Sheriff’s Office report did not specify whether investigators had determined there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge.
Sheriff’s detectives completed their investigation more than a year after Halyna Hutchins’ death. The film’s writer-director Joel Souza was also injured in the October 21, 2021 incident at Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico outside of Santa Fe.
It will now be up to Carmack-Altwies and her associates to determine whether any crimes were committed that day and, if so, who should be held responsible.
Carmack-Altwies – who has said up to four people, including Baldwin, could be charged – has been preparing the case for months. She hired a special prosecutor to oversee the case and recently received $317,000 in funding for additional staff.
Law enforcement officials have said they were looking into the actions of those who handled the guns on set that day, including Baldwin; gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed loading Baldwin’s replica old Colt .45 revolver; and assistant director David Halls, who allegedly handed the pistol to Baldwin and told him it was a “cold” weapon — meaning it wasn’t loaded.
The investigation was delayed as detectives waited months for the FBI to complete a ballistics analysis. Additionally, accessing Baldwin’s cellphone data to search for possible evidence became a lengthy, month-long process that required the involvement of New York City prosecutors.
Baldwin has claimed he didn’t pull the trigger. He has admitted that he cocked the hammer and that he relied on the crew members to get their job done. However, the FBI report, submitted to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in August, said the trigger had to be pulled for the revolver to fire.
Baldwin’s attorney has cast doubt on the FBI’s findings, saying the gun was in poor condition and broke during the agency’s testing.
Questions remain about how live ammunition – Colt .45 long caliber lead bullets – were mixed into a box of “dummy” cartridges.
At least seven live bullets were found by sheriff’s detectives on the set of “Rust,” including at least one in Baldwin’s bandolier, according to evidence filed in the case.
Hutchins’ husband Matthew announced in early October that he had agreed to a proposed settlement with Baldwin and other executive producers to settle the family’s wrongful death process, calling it a “horrific accident.”
Hutchins has a 10-year-old son, Andros.
The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Under the deal, which is subject to judge approval, “Rust” would resume production in January, with Matthew Hutchins serving as executive producer.
The original cast, including Baldwin, Jensen Ackles and Swen Temmel, are expected to attend, although the group has no plans to return to Bonanza Creek Ranch. Souza, who co-wrote the screenplay with Baldwin, will direct.
Legal experts have said the settlement could make any prosecution more difficult, although Carmack-Altwies has denied it would affect her decision to press charges.
The New Mexico Medical Investigator’s Office ruled Hutchins’ death an accidental.
Crew members have told The Times that cost cutting and a rushed production schedule that led to safety lapses contributed to the tragedy.
Last spring, the New Mexico Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health found manufacturers were also to blame, saying the manufacturing company had shown “simple indifference” to gun safety.
“This [was] a total failure by the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe,” New Mexico Secretary of the Environment James Kenney said in a statement.
Producers, Rust Movie Productions LLC, have disputed the portrayal, blaming Gutierrez Reed for the tragedy. The gunsmith said she became too skinny trying to juggle two key jobs in low-budget manufacturing.
The aspiring cinematographer’s death sent shockwaves through Hollywood, which is still wrestling over possible security reforms.
Filming of Rust took place during an after-lunch rehearsal at Bonanza Creek Ranch’s old wooden church. Baldwin had practiced a cross-draw maneuver, drawing the gun from its holster and then pointing it at the camera.
The cameras weren’t rolling when the shooting took place. Baldwin described in an ABC interview how he pointed the gun at the camera.
Hutchins and Souza planned a close-up camera shot of the propeller gun’s barrel and chamber when it was fired. The bullet hit Hutchins in the chest and lodged in Souza’s shoulder.
Carmack-Altwies, 44, is a former public defender and former assistant district attorney serving her first term as chief prosecutor for Santa Fe and two other counties.
The prosecutor, a Democrat, is considered politically progressive. During her 2020 campaign, amid nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Carmack-Altwies vowed to “hold all people accountable, whether they’re cops or citizens.”
New Mexico legal observers said their decision to appoint Andrea Reeb as special prosecutor was politically wise.
Reeb is a former district attorney in eastern New Mexico. She retired in March after 25 years as a prosecutor.
Reeb, a conservative Republican, is running for a seat in the state Legislature and touts her hardline approach to crime, her opposition to abortion, and her strong support for gun rights.
The case could have political undertones, given that New Mexico filming is a big employer and Baldwin is a polarizing figure. The actor famously mocked former President Trump on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Trump has hinted the shooting may have been more nefarious.