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Sheriff Releases Evidence In ‘Rust’ Shooting, Says No One Is Off The Hook For Charges

Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza has released all of his agency’s files regarding the investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust” last year in which Alec Baldwin shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Sheriff Mendoza noted that no one “is off the hook” when it comes to potential criminal charges in the case.

“It’s hard to determine right now, the route that the case is going to go,” Sheriff Mendoza told the Today show on Tuesday. “I’ve said this before, I think there was complacency on the set. There was disorganization and a degree of negligence. Whether that rises to a criminal level, that will be up to the district attorney.”

The sheriff refused to predict whether or not Baldwin, 64, will be held responsible for killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

“I don’t think anybody is off the hook when it comes to criminal charges,” he told the Today show.

Sheriff Mendoza released a huge amount of evidence associated with the case on Monday.

“Today the sheriff’s office is releasing all files associated with our ongoing investigation,” he said, according to Deadline. “The files are all related to the Rust movie set investigation and include lapel/dash camera footage from deputies and detectives, incident reports, crime scene photos, examination reports, witness interviews, set video and staff photos collected throughout the course of this investigation.”

The investigation into the fatal shooting remains ongoing and the case file already exceeds 200 pages, the sheriff noted.

Sheriff Mendoza said his office is still waiting for results from “FBI firearm and ballistic forensics along with DNA and latent fingerprint analysis, Office of the New Mexico Medical Examiner findings report and the analysis of Mr. Alec Baldwin’s phone data extracted by Suffolk County Sheriff’s investigators,” Deadline reported.

Once those components are received, the case will be complete and can be forwarded to the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office for review, he said.

Sheriff Mendoza told the Today show he released the information in response to a public records request.

“We are required to release the information,” he said. “But it was also an attempt to be transparent in the investigation.”

The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau hit Rust Movie Productions LLC with a maximum fine of $136,793 on April 20 for its “willful and serious” violations of safety procedures in the workplace during filming of the movie, Deadline reported.

Jason Bowles, the attorney representing the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, released a statement shortly after the report was released last week.

“After OSHA’s very comprehensive safety investigation involving numerous interviews and review of documents, it has concluded that production willfully failed to follow national gun safety standards, which caused this tragedy,” Bowles declared.

“OSHA found that Hannah Gutierrez Reed was not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively, despite her voiced concerns,” he added.

Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said the information released by the sheriff’s office backs up his client’s account of what occurred, CNN reported.

“The information that has been revealed by the authorities demonstrates, once again, that Mr. Baldwin acted responsibly and did not have control over any production issues that were identified in the OSHA report,” Nikas said in a statement.

However, Baldwin was listed as a producer on Rust.

“Additionally, the interviews and affidavits disclosed today continue to corroborate Mr. Baldwin’s description of the events — including an affidavit from the Detective stating that the cameraman, who was standing next to Ms. Hutchins and Mr. Souza at the time of the accident, confirmed that Mr. Baldwin was ‘very careful’ with guns on the set,” Baldwin’s attorney added, according to CNN.

Newly-released video taken before the shooting shows Baldwin’s finger on the trigger and his thumb quickly dropping off of the hammer of the revolver.

The attorney representing Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, said he was “surprised” by Sheriff Mendoza’s decision to release “such a large amount of evidence,” especially considering the case is still active and going.

“For this reason, we are not going to comment on the material released except to say we hope the press will exercise discretion in how they use the graphic images and videos of the fatal events of Oct 21, 2021,” the attorney, Brian Panish, told CNN.

Baldwin has declared he is not “culpable” for having fatally shot Hutchins, and argued in recent court documents that he is shielded from financial responsibility for her death under the terms of his contract.

Baldwin also attempted to arrange a settlement with Hutchins’ husband after her death so filmmakers could complete the production of the movie, Variety reported.

According to arbitration paperwork filed by his attorney, Luke Nikas, on March 11, the idea the gun Baldwin had fired contained a live bullet was “unthinkable” to the actor because someone else he said was responsible for verifying its safety had assured him it was “cold.”

The filing noted that “others” on set “quickly dismissed” the possibility the firearm could have contained a live round – calling such a notion “farfetched” – since two staff members were responsible for ensuring they did not contain live bullets, Business Insider reported.

“He was shocked,” the arbitration demand read, according to Business Insider. “In his mind, it was outside the realm of all possibility that a live bullet could have been present on the ranch property or on the prop truck, let alone in the gun itself.”

Nikas further declared the actor should not be responsible for the legal costs of defending himself in the fatal shooting case and alleged such obligations should fall to the “Rust” production company, Business Insider reported.

He argued in the 37-page document that Baldwin is shielded from financial culpability for the fatal shooting under the terms of his contract.

The contract specifically includes a clause protecting Baldwin and his production company “from and against any loss, damage, liability, claim, demand, action, cost and expense” in connection with the filming of “Rust,” Business Insider reported.

“At this point, two things are clear: someone is culpable for chambering the live round that led to this horrific tragedy, and it is someone other than Baldwin,” Nikas wrote, according to Business Insider.

Baldwin has been named in multiple lawsuits since the Oct. 21, 2021 death of Hutchins, to include a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her husband.

Panish, the attorney representing Hutchins’ family, said the arbitration demand shows “Alec Baldwin once again is trying to avoid liability and accountability for his reckless actions before and on October 21 that resulted in the death of Halyna Hutchins,” Business Insider reported.

“It is shameful that Baldwin claims Hutchins’ actions in filing a wrongful death lawsuit derailed the completion of ‘Rust,’” Panish added. “The only action that ended the film’s production was Baldwin’s killing of Halyna Hutchins.”

Baldwin insisted during an interview with ABC News that he “didn’t pull the trigger” of the gun he was holding when it discharged and fatally shot Hutchins.

“The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin said during the sit down. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”

The actor said he has “no idea” how the fatal incident occurred.

“Someone put a live bullet in a gun. A bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” he said.

Baldwin, co-producer and star of the film, said his connection to the death of Hutchins, 42, and the wounding of Souza is the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.

“I think back and I think of what could I have done?” he said. “She was someone who was loved by everyone who worked with and liked by everyone who worked with and admired…I mean, even now, I find it hard to believe… It doesn’t seem real to me.”

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin


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