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'Rust' assistant director tells investigators he should have checked gun more carefully

David Halls told investigators that he did not look at each individual round of ammunition in the gun during his safety check last week.
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“Rust” assistant director David Halls told authorities he should have checked the gun used on set last week more thoroughly after noticing a difference in the ammunition rounds, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Halls told investigations in an interview that he did not check each individual round of ammunition in the gun before handing it back to the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the day cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died, the court document said.

After the shooting, Halls took the gun to Gutierrez-Reed and recalled seeing at least four "dummy" casings with the hole on the side, and one without the hole, when she opened the gun, according to Halls' interview. The round without the hole did not have the "cap" on it and was just the casing, according to the warrant.

“David advised when Hannah showed him the firearm before continue rehearsal, he could only remember seeing three rounds,” the warrant affidavit said. “He advised he should’ve checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum.”

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

In response to questions about safety protocols on set, Halls said that he is in charge of yelling “cold gun,” which indicates the firearm doesn’t have live ammunition. He announced it was a “cold gun” Thursday, indicating to everyone on set that the firearm was safe.

Hutchins was killed almost a week ago when actor Alec Baldwin fired a Pietta Long Colt revolver during rehearsal on the New Mexico set of "Rust.” The incident also wounded director Joel Souza, 48.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said Wednesday that the firearm on set was functional and fired a live round, questioning why live ammunition was on the set at all.

“We’re going to determine whether, we suspect, that there were other live rounds,” he said. “We’re going to determine how those got there, why they were there because they shouldn’t have been there.”

Scrutiny has been raised regarding Gutierrez-Reed’s experience as an on-set armorer. Gutierrez-Reed, the daughter of Hollywood stuntman Thell Reed, was in charge of weapons and gun safety on the set.

She told investigators that “no live ammo is ever kept on set," according to the search warrant affidavit.

Halls’ past experience with firearms has also been brought to light following Hutchins' death. He was fired from the film "Freedom's Path” in 2019 after a crew member was injured in a firearms incident.

Maggie Goll, a special effects technician who worked on the set of a Hulu series with Halls in 2019, said he did not maintain a safe working environment on the set.

In a statement to NBC News on Monday, Goll said Halls did not hold safety meetings or announce when a gun had appeared on the set. He also tried to keep filming after the lead pyrotechnician on the series, "Into the Dark," suffered a medical emergency, she said.

Halls did not respond to a request for comment about Goll's remarks.

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

It’s unclear whether criminal charges will be filed in the fatal accident. First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, whose office would prosecute a criminal case, said it’s still yet to be determined if the set conditions would meet the bar of criminal negligence.

Her office is looking at an array of charges, including a non-felony charge of negligent use of a firearm. But the standard for successful prosecution is much higher than the probable cause required to bring charges.

"To get all the way to trial and and to try to prove someone criminally responsible takes beyond a reasonable doubt, and that is an exceptionally high burden — as it should be — under our constitution," Carmack-Altwies said. "So that’s one of the reasons we need to take this step by step very carefully. Because we don’t want to wrongfully charge someone or wrongfully not charge someone."