Since the news of his prop gun shooting on the set of his upcoming movie, Rust, fans have wondered if Alec Baldwin will be charged for the death of his cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, who was killed after Baldwin fatally shot her with a prop gun that had an accidental live round in it.
The shooting occurred on October 21, 2021, when Baldwin had misfired a prop gun that killed Hutchins and injured the movie’s director, Joel Souza, on the set of Rust, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico. In a statement after the accident, Baldwin expressed his “shock and sadness” over Hutchins’ death, and confirmed that he’s been “fully cooperating” with the police on how the misfire occurred. “There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” he tweeted at the time. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Will Alec Baldwin be charged for manslaughter?
So—will Alec Baldwin be charged for manslaughter? The answer is unclear. At a press conference on October 27, 2021, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza and Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said that “all options are still on the table” when it comes to criminal charges over Hutchins’ death. He also noted that Baldwin, as well as armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls are the three main individuals the police have been communicating with.
“During the initial investigation, it was determined that actor/producer Alec Baldwin was the person that fired the weapon,” Mendoza said during the press conference. “We identified two other people who handled and or inspected the loaded firearm prior to Baldwin firing the weapon. These two individuals are armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls. All three individuals have been cooperative in the investigation and have provided statements.”
He continued, “During this process, we determined there were a limited amount of movie set staff present in the area where the actual incident took place, although there were approximately 100 people on set. Through the execution of search warrants, we have collected about 600 items of evidence. These include but are not limited to three firearms, approximately 500 rounds of ammunition and several pieces of clothing and possessions. We believe that we have in our possession the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin.”
As for charges, Mendoza said it was “too early” to talk about who is liable for Hutchins’ death. “The investigation will continue and if the Sheriff’s Office determines during our investigation that a crime has occurred and probable cause exists, an arrest or arrests will be made and charges will be filed,” he said. Carmack-Altwies also noted that the investigation is ongoing. “I must emphasize that a complete and thorough investigation is critical to DA review,” she said. “We take the corroborated facts and evidence and connect it to New Mexico law. And we are not at that juncture yet. If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time.”
David Ring, a Los Angeles trial attorney, told People on October 26, 2021, that he doesn’t think Baldwin will “have criminal culpability” in the case because he was told the prop gun was “cold” (which means it didn’t have any live rounds in it) by assistant director Dave Hall. “Based on what we know now, it doesn’t seem like Alec Baldwin is the focus of any criminal case because he was handed a gun and he was told it was a cold gun, meaning that someone has looked at it and [found] there’s no ammunition in it,” Hall said. “And I think he has the right to rely upon that, to assume that it also is cold.”
As for who could be “criminally liable,” Ring told People that the crew members in charge, such as the producer, are the most culpable. “There’s certainly a chance that the authorities say this was such a dangerous operation that whoever’s in charge, including the producer, are somehow criminally liable,” he said. “That’s a much more difficult case to prove. We’re talking about intent.”
However, Albuquerque criminal-defense attorney Erlinda Johnson told People that involuntary manslaughter charges could be brought against Baldwin—and other crew members who checked the gun—because he was the one who handled the firearm “Whoever handles the firearm has a duty to check it for any live rounds,” she said. “There’s a lot of civil liability here. It’s going to be a nightmare for [people involved with the movie].”
In terms of civil liability, Ring told People that “there’s no doubt” Baldwin will be named in a wrongful death lawsuit if Hutchins’ family decides to file one. “He’s absolutely going to get named in any wrongful death lawsuit. You just have to show that there was negligence that led to the shooting, and it’s a much lower standard than a criminal case,” Ring said. “Obviously there’s negligence [in this case] and it just depends on who was negligent. But ultimately the production company is in charge. It happened on their watch.” He continued, “Anyone who should have been in charge is going to get named in a wrongful death lawsuit.”
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, confirmed that he’s been in communication with Baldwin since the accident. “I have spoken with Alec Baldwin and he is being very supportive,” said said Matthew, who shares an 8-year-old son with the late cinematographer. Matthew also told Insider that he doesn’t have “words to communicate the situation” yet, which is why he hasn’t officially commented. “I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” he said. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic. I think that we will need a little bit of time before we can really encapsulate her life in a way that is easy to communicate.”
Rust Movie Productions LLC also confirmed on October 21, 2021, that the film set has been shut down and production on the movie has been indefinitely paused after Hutchins’ death. The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones,” the company said in a statement at the time. We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.”