‘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 got onto the set, the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office said Monday it still lacked key pieces of evidence. including ballistics analysis, that it said it needed to complete its criminal investigation.

The sheriff’s office discussed the wait for evidence as it took the step of releasing files relating to the “Rust” investigation, including witness interviews; lapel and dash camera footage; crime scene photos; text messages between crew members in the days before and after the shooting; and videos of Mr. Baldwin practicing with the gun in the church where the deadly shooting occurred.

The office has been investigating the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42, who was shot and killed in New Mexico on Oct. 21 during the rehearsal for a scene that required Mr. Baldwin to draw a replica old-fashioned revolver from a shoulder holster that he had been told contained no live ammunition.

The gun went off, discharging a bullet that killed Ms. Hutchins and injured Joel Souza, the film’s director. Since then, the sheriff’s office in Santa Fe has been gathering evidence and investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

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

Mr. Baldwin told Detective Hancock that his finger had been on the trigger but that he did not pull the trigger, it said.

Detective Hancock wrote that she tried to explain to him that if his finger was on the trigger, and if he was pulling the hammer back with his thumb, his index finger may still have enough pressure on the trigger for him to depress it. ”

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

But as it released the new materials, the sheriff’s office said it still lacked important building blocks of its investigation to be able to pass the case to the Santa Fe County district attorney for review.

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

“Once these investigative components are provided to the sheriff’s office, we will be able to complete the investigation to forward it to the Santa Fe district attorney for review,” Sheriff Mendoza said in a statement issued by his office.

Mary Carmack-Altwies, the Santa Fe County district attorney, said in a statement on Monday that although investigators have sent over a portion of their inquiry to her office, detectives cannot send over a completed investigation until they receive certain reports.

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

The University of New Mexico, where Ms. Hutchins’s autopsy is being performed, is not yet finished with its report, said a spokesman, Mark Rudi.

The Santa Fe County sheriff’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on what was delaying the outstanding pieces of evidence.

The FBI’s national press office declined to comment regarding the time it was taking to complete its firearm and ballistic investigation, and directed inquiries to local law enforcement officials.

Despite months of gathering evidence, no findings have been made public, and it still remains unclear how live bullets found their way onto the film set and how one of them got into the gun that Mr. Baldwin was handling.

Investigators released copies of text messages and emails pulled from the phones of crew members that revealed discussions about safety concerns before the fatal shooting. Lane Luper, a camera crew member who walked off the set with several other colleagues on the morning of Oct. 21, wrote an email to production leaders saying that “things are often played very fast and loose” during the filming of gunfights. In text messages, the movie’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 stunt man.

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

Mr. Baldwin agreed to a process in which he handed over his iPhone and its password, and the phone’s data would be reviewed by officials from the Suffolk County police department and district attorney’s office before the relevant data would be passed to the authorities in New Mexico. .

Last week, New Mexico state regulators faulted the producers of the movie, finding that the film management’s indifference to dangers involved in handling guns on set had led to the death of Ms. Hutchins, and they issued a $ 136,793 penalty on the production company, the maximum allowed under state law.

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