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'Rust' assistant director was fired from 2019 movie after gun discharged on set

A sound crew member was injured in the incident, a producer said.
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LOS ANGELES — The assistant director who handed Alec Baldwin the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a movie set last week had been fired from a film in 2019 after a gun unexpectedly discharged on the set, injuring a crew member, a producer for that film said Monday.

The previous incident occurred in New Mexico during the filming of "Freedom's Path," said the producer, who worked on the movie. The assistant director, Dave Halls, was removed from the set immediately and was fired later, according to the producer.

"Dave was very remorseful for the events and understood the reasons he was being terminated," the producer said by email.

The injured crew member, who was working on sound, recoiled after the blast and was told to seek medical attention after being evaluated by an on-set medic, the producer said.

The extent of the crew member's injuries wasn't clear. The person returned to production a few days later, the producer said, adding that a new assistant director was hired and the film was completed.

Halls did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Authorities in New Mexico, where the shooting Friday on the set of "Rust" also injured the director, Joel Souza, have not charged anyone.

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, 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.

A spokesperson for Blumhouse Television, which produced "Into the Dark" with Hulu, said that the company would not comment on personnel matters and that no safety complaints were received.

Last week's shooting has prompted calls for Hollywood to re-evaluate why real weapons are still used during production, and the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is investigating how a gun with a lethal amount of ammunition got into Baldwin's hands.

A search warrant says Halls yelled "cold gun" before giving Baldwin the weapon, indicating incorrectly that it didn't have any live rounds. Authorities have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to release details of the investigation.

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.

"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.

It also indicated that the film's production company would not be commenting further about the incident and on-set safety protocols.

"As with any ongoing investigation, we are limited in our ability to say anything further publicly or privately, and ask for your patience in that regards. As the investigation continues, we cannot respond to the comments that have been making their way into the media, on social media and elsewhere," the letter said.

Diana Dasrath reported from Los Angeles. Tim Stelloh reported from Alameda, California.