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'Lead projectile' killed cinematographer on 'Rust' set, Santa Fe County sheriff says

Alec Baldwin and the two crew members who handled the gun have been cooperative with investigators, the sheriff said.

SANTA FE, N.M. — Sheriff's investigators have recovered the "lead projectile" that killed a cinematographer, as well as 500 other rounds, from the set of the movie "Rust," authorities said Wednesday.

The investigation is ongoing and Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said it's too early to determine if there's enough evidence for criminal charges stemming from the deadly incident.

The rounds recovered from the set include blanks, dummy rounds and what investigators suspect are "live" rounds.

“There was some complacency on this set, and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico," Mendoza told reporters in Santa Fe.

Despite the sheriff's accusation of "complacency" on the set, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, whose office would prosecute any criminal case here, said she can't yet say if lackluster work would amount to charges.

“There is a bridge and it will take many more facts, corroborated facts, before we can get to that criminal negligent standard,” she said.

It's been nearly a week since a prop gun fired by the actor Alec Baldwin on the New Mexico set of "Rust" killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, and wounded director Joel Souza, 48.

The round that killed Hutchins and then lodged in Souza's left shoulder was taken out by doctors, the sheriff said.

Carmack-Altwies told reporters there's virtually no precedent to lean on for determining what charges, if any, could be filed in this case.

In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, the prosecutor said any potential charge tied to an "involuntary killing" would need "to show the willful disregard for the safety of others."

"And the key word there is willful, that is a higher standard than knew or should have known that they could have that they could cause this tragedy," she added.

Carmack-Altwies didn't downplay possible criminal charges, but repeatedly said a civil complaint could be an outcome.

"And so at this point, we are trying to figure out, should it become a criminal investigation? Should it become more of a civil investigation? So it's an investigation," Carmack-Altwies said.

The weapon fired that day by Baldwin was a Pietta Long Colt revolver, according to Mendoza.

And while investigators have recovered footage from the set, there does not appear to be any film of the moment Hutchins was fatally wounded, officials said.

“I think the facts are clear, a weapon was handed Mr. Baldwin, the weapon is functional and fired a live round, killing Ms. Hutchins and injuring Mr. Souza," Mendoza said.

The sheriff also wants to know why live rounds were on the “Rust” set.

“We know there was one live round, as far as we’re concerned, on set. We’re going to determine whether, we suspect, that there were other live rounds,” Mendoza said. “We’re going to determine how those got there, why they were there because they shouldn’t have been there.”

Much of the attention has fallen on "Rust" assistant director Dave Halls, who had been fired from the film "Freedom's Path" in 2019 after a gun unexpectedly discharged on the set in New Mexico, injuring a crew member, a producer for that film has said.

Halls yelled "cold gun" a week ago Thursday before giving Baldwin the weapon, indicating incorrectly that it didn't have any live rounds, according to a search warrant.

Questions have also been raised about the experience level of 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the set's armorer. Gutierrez-Reed, the daughter of Hollywood stuntman Thell Reed, was in charge of weapons and gun safety on the set.

Both of those crew members and Baldwin have spoken to detectives.

"All three individuals have been cooperative in the investigation and have provided statements," Mendoza said.

Representatives for Baldwin and Souza declined comment immediately after Mendoza's briefing with reporters.

Both the sheriff and the DA said there will be no deadlines for finishing the probe or evidentiary review to find if any criminal charges are warranted.

“There is no timeline. We want to get all the facts, get all the statements and present that to the district attorney’s office for review," Mendoza said.

The tragedy has prompted some in Hollywood to call for more stringent gun safety rules or the banning of on-set weapons altogether in the age of computer-generated visuals.

Work on "Rust" has been suspended until the investigation is finished, the film's production team told crew members in a letter Sunday night.

"As we go through this crisis, we have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete," the letter said.

Miguel Almaguer reported from Santa Fe, New Mexico, David K. Li from New York and Diana Dasrath from Los Angeles.