Up to 4 people could face charges in “Rust” shooting, prosecutor says

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

▶ Watch Video: Alec Baldwin and others could face charges in “Rust” shooting, district attorney says

A district attorney in New Mexico said she could be close to charging up to four people, including actor Alec Baldwin, in the “Rust” film set shooting that occurred in Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021. During the shooting, Baldwin’s prop gun was discharged, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. 

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies made an emergency funding request for $635,500 to continue to fund the investigation of the high-profile case.

“We are within weeks, if not days, of receiving the final report from the sheriff’s office,” Carmack-Altwies said during a New Mexico Board of Finance meeting on Sept. 20. She said while they are still awaiting reports “it’s become apparent that we will be potentially charging between one and four people with criminal charges and each of those charges will probably include some variation of our homicide statute.”

In a letter to the board of finance, the district attorney’s office specified that Baldwin could be one of the possible defendants and that “this case could require up to four separate jury trials.”

During the meeting, Carmack-Altwies said homicide cases are the most complex and litigious and that her office would use the money to hire more people to work on the case.

“These cases look to be too big for just my office to handle,” Carmack-Altwies said, adding that she and two other attorneys from her office will remain on the case, but they also need to focus on others. “We need an almost full-time attorney and someone who is very experienced on complex cases and very experienced with litigation,” she said.

The funds could also go to that new attorney’s support staff, like paralegals, as well as experts who can aid in the investigation – like a firearm expert, an armorer who has worked on movies before and potentially a movie set safety expert. She also requested a public information officer because her office was overwhelmed with media attention over the case.

“The report coming in in October means we will be under the gun – no pun intended – to get moving on these cases and to get these cases charged if that is what the facts warrant,” she said, adding that any money she doesn’t spend will be returned. “It’s merely that we need it starting in October to start retaining people.” 

The board of finance approved $317,750 for her emergency request fund.

Last month, New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator finished an autopsy and review of law enforcement reports and determined the shooting was an accident.

The FBI also completed its forensics investigation last month, and the case was handed over to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. At the time, Carmack-Altwies’ office was also waiting for a report from Suffolk County Police Department in New York, which was working to obtain Baldwin’s phone records. 

“To date, my office has received portions of the Rust investigation from SFSO but is still awaiting the balance of supplemental reports including, but not limited to, the following: FBI firearm and tool mark analyses, forensic testing on the firearm itself, the forensic download from Suffolk County PD of Mr. Baldwin’s phone, and the pathology report from the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement at the time. 

She said once she receives all necessary reports, she and her team will make a charging decision. CBS News has reached out to Carmack-Altwies for more information and is awaiting response. 

Baldwin’s attorney criticized the implication that his client could be charged in a statement to CBS News, writing that Carmack-Altwies “has made clear that she has not received the sheriff’s report or made any decisions about who, if anyone, might be charged in this case.” 

Baldwin, 64, has called the shooting “a tragic accident.” A single live round was discharged from a Pietta Colt .45 revolver as Baldwin was rehearsing for the film, according to a previous search warrant. The gun was pointed at the camera and struck and killed Hutchins, 42, and wounded Souza, 48.  

In an emotional interview with ABC News in December, Baldwin said he had no idea there was a live round in the gun and that he didn’t realize it had killed Hutchins and injured Souza until hours after the shooting.

Bodycam footage released in April by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office shows Baldwin holding the gun before the incident, and Hutchins and Souza on the ground surrounded by first responders after they were shot. The video also shows Baldwin telling two officers that he did not pull the trigger. He is seen telling the officers he didn’t know who put a live round in the weapon. 

In addition to the criminal investigation, there are several other lawsuits over the shooting. Hutchins’ family is suing Baldwin and the movie’s producers for wrongful death. The armorer on the film, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, has sued the ammunition and guns supplier for the movie, accusing him and his company of providing a combination of dummy and live rounds.

Baldwin, Reed and assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun, are also being sued for alleged negligence by dozens of crew members.

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