D.A. Says Criminal Charges Possible In Baldwin Shooting Incident

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Though that doesn’t mean that Alec Baldwin himself will necessarily be facing charges. Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told the New York Times on Wednesday that “everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table,” but cautioned that it could take time to determine who among the cast and crew might face criminal culpability in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the wounding of director Joel Souza. And it sounds like there’s a distinct possibility that the investigation could lead to charges against more than one person.

Ms. Carmack-Altwies said that the investigation was focusing on ballistics in an effort to determine what kind of round was in the gun that killed Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer — and who had placed the ammunition in the gun.

“There were an enormous amount of bullets on this set, and we need to find out what kinds they were,” Ms. Carmack-Altwies said. Detectives said that they recovered three revolvers, spent casings and ammunition — in boxes, loose and in a fanny pack — while executing a search warrant on the set, according to an inventory of the items released on Monday. The inventory did not specify what kind of ammunition was found on the set.

The prosecutor warned, however, that “it’s probably weeks, if not months, of follow-up investigation that we’re going to need to get to the point of charging.”

One of the allegations that investigators are focusing on are reports that crew members were using some of the guns on set to go plinking in the surrounding desert just hours before Baldwin shot Hutchins and Souza while allegedly practicing a cross draw for an upcoming scene.

Crew members on the set of “Rust” used guns with live ammunition and engaged in a pastime called “plinking” hours before Halyna Hutchins was killed, founder and CEO of The Wrap, Sharon Waxman, told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday night, citing information from an individual with knowledge of the set.

One of the guns used was later handed to actor Alec Baldwin, who fired the shot that killed Hutchins, 42, and injured director Joel Souza, The Wrap reported.

“There’s this pastime that crew members sometimes do, it’s called ‘plinking,’ and they go out into the rural areas and they shoot at beer cans. This is with live ammunition. We learned that this happened the morning of the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed,” Waxman said.

That alone would have been a clear violation of the firearm protocols during film and television productions, but even if crew members had used some of the film’s revolvers to go plinking at beer cans, the movie’s armorer and the assistant director were both responsible for ensuring that Baldwin’s gun was “cold” when it was handed to him.

The Santa Fe County D.A. says she’s aware of the report but hasn’t yet been able to confirm that any plinking was taking place the morning of the shooting. But as my colleague Allahpundit opined over at HotAir, there are plenty of other issues that have come to light that paint a portrait of a film set beset with safety issues.

Presumably someone in production knew that the crew was messing with the guns. Witnesses had already seen one gun on set misfire twice in the hands of Baldwin’s stunt double. If loose ammunition was floating around, that’s further cause for alarm about an ammo mix-up leading to tragedy. Under those circumstances, you would think the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and the first assistant director, Dave Halls, would have been downright paranoid about securing the weapons between takes and checking and re-checking them for live rounds before they were fired on set.

And if they weren’t, you would think the producers — one of whom is Alec Baldwin — would have been incensed and fired them immediately. Instead, Baldwin somehow ended up pointing his gun at Hutchins while rehearsing cross-draws. He may not face liability for accidentally firing the shot that killed her but the case that he and other producers should face liability for ignoring a parade of red flags grows by the day.

In fact, one of the other actors on the film says that he and others would double-check the guns handed to them by armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed in order to assure themselves that they were unloaded. Baldwin was allegedly told by Halls that the gun was “cold”, but that may not be enough to save him from civil and even criminal liability going forward. Just don’t expect any charges to be filed against any cast or crew member anytime soon.