Alec Baldwin must have pulled the trigger of a loaded prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of ‘Rust’, an FBI forensic investigation found. Baldwin previously denied pulling the trigger.
Hutchins was killed on the set of ‘Rust’ in New Mexico last October, when a gun that Baldwin was seen brandishing discharged. Baldwin apparently believed that he was handling a ‘cold’, or unloaded gun, and a homicide investigation by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office is ongoing.
The FBI report was obtained by ABC News and excerpts published on Saturday. According to the document, the gun in question, a .45 caliber Pietta single-action revolver, "could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger” if its hammer was locked in the quarter- or half-cock positions.
If the hammer was fully cocked, the situation was much the same, and the gun "could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional," the FBI concluded.
FBI testing found that the gun could theoretically have detonated the primer in its cartridge “without a pull of the trigger,” but only if it were uncocked and the hammer were “struck directly.”
Speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in December, Baldwin said that he cocked the gun before going over an upcoming scene with Hutchins. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off,” he continued, insisting “the trigger wasn’t pulled,” and “I didn’t pull the trigger.”
It is unclear from ABC’s latest report how much force Baldwin would have had to exert to pull the revolver’s trigger. Guns with a higher trigger weight require a tighter squeeze to fire, while lighter triggers take less effort, and are therefore favored by sport shooters for whom any unnecessary movement could reduce accuracy in a competition.
Video footage released in April appeared to show Baldwin drawing the revolver and pointing it at a camera, with his finger on the trigger. It is not completely clear from the footage whether he squeezed his finger.
New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator has classified Hutchins’ death as an accident, with a postmortem report noting “the absence of obvious intent to cause harm or death.” Prosecutors have yet to issue any charges relating to the case.
What remains unclear is how live rounds found their way into the gun. Back in October, a witness to the shooting told gossip site Hollywood 411 that a shocked Baldwin asked why he was handed a ‘hot gun’ – one containing ammunition, either live or blank – after the incident.
The armorer on the film set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has since sued the set’s ammo supplier, accusing the company of mixing up live and blank rounds. It remains unclear whether Gutierrez-Reed or another crew member announced that the gun was ‘hot’ or ‘cold’, and whether all involved understood that ‘hot’ typically implies a weapon loaded with either blanks or live rounds.
According to multiple accounts, cast members had complained about the unsafe handling of firearms on set before the fatal shooting.