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A young mother lies on the floor of a dusty Western film set, her life ebbing away as paramedics crowd around her. Beside her, a colleague — Joel Souza — groans in pain from his own gunshot wound.

It’s difficult to think of more disturbing footage to have come out of violence-obsessed Hollywood — because this scene is entirely real.

The final moments of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’s life — after she was accidentally shot by actor Alec Baldwin while preparing to film a scene for a low-budget movie, Rust — have been revealed by police in a trove of dozens of previously unseen videos and images.

They shed new light on a tragedy that rocked Hollywood and sparked a fierce debate about safety standards. 

Action: Alec Baldwin prepares to resume filming after a difficult morning on the set of movie Rust

Action: Alec Baldwin prepares to resume filming after a difficult morning on the set of movie Rust

Action: Alec Baldwin prepares to resume filming after a difficult morning on the set of movie Rust

Speedy: The actor practices a quickdraw before the fatal shooting

Speedy: The actor practices a quickdraw before the fatal shooting

Speedy: The actor practices a quickdraw before the fatal shooting

How tragedy on set sparked blame game

The calamity that took place on a New Mexico ranch last October also set off an ugly blame game that, pending the results of a police investigation, still hangs over those responsible for on-set gun safety and the irascible Baldwin, the film’s principal star as well as its co-producer and co-writer. He has denied any responsibility, insisting he was passed the gun having been assured it was not loaded.

The Hunt For Red October and Mission: Impossible star also insists he never actually pulled the trigger, simply partially pulling back the hammer and then letting it go as he followed instructions to aim his vintage revolver at the camera.

Last week, New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau issued the maximum possible fine — $137,000 (£109,000) — to the production company behind the film, determining that it wilfully failed to provide adequate safety precautions in connection with the killing of Hutchins and injury to Souza. However, individual culpability for the unforgivable mishap remains to be decided, as does the mystery of how, breaking one of the cardinal rules in film-making, live rounds came on to the set.

Horror: Paramedics and crew crowd around the stricken cinematographer

Horror: Paramedics and crew crowd around the stricken cinematographer

Horror: Paramedics and crew crowd around the stricken cinematographer

Santa Fe Sheriff Adan Mendoza told U.S. news stations yesterday: ‘I don’t think anybody is off the hook when it comes to criminal charges.’

And that included Baldwin. ‘He was the one that handled the weapon that fired the round that led to the fatality,’ Mendoza said. The gun was being analysed to ascertain ‘what it took to manipulate that firearm to allow it to go off’, he added.

‘We’re going to work with the DA’s [District Attorney’s] office to determine if there is criminal neglect or criminal charges. We kind of know who didn’t do their jobs here.’

He said that no one had yet come forward to admit bringing live rounds on to the set. He expects the investigation to be finally over in a few weeks. However, he admitted that investigators had discovered ‘concerning’ information from text messages in which live ammunition was discussed and possibly used on a prior film set just months earlier.

Hot gun: The vintage revolver that somehow came to be loaded with live ammunition on set

Hot gun: The vintage revolver that somehow came to be loaded with live ammunition on set

Hot gun: The vintage revolver that somehow came to be loaded with live ammunition on set

New evidence over rookie armourer

Indeed, that is where the trail starts in this telling new cache of evidence. The sheriff was referring to an exchange between Hannah Gutierrez Reed, Rust’s young and inexperienced armourer, and Seth Kenney, the film’s weapons supplier, while the former was working last August on another film, The Old Way.

She asked him if she could ‘shoot hot rounds out of the trap door…like a pretty big load of actual ammunition’. He responded by warning her never to use live — or ‘hot’ — rounds but only blanks. ‘It’s a serious mistake, always ends in tears,’ he told her. She replied: ‘Good to know, I’m still gonna shoot mine tho.’

Trained by her father, a veteran Hollywood firearms expert, Gutierrez Reed was just 24 and has admitted she’d almost turned down The Old Way, starring Nicolas Cage and her first job as a film armourer, because she was worried she wasn’t ‘ready’ and found loading blank rounds into guns ‘the scariest thing’.

Baldwin's 'blood'-stained sleeve

Baldwin's 'blood'-stained sleeve

Baldwin assures that the blood is not real

Baldwin assures that the blood is not real

Stained: Baldwin assures officers that the blood on his shirt is not real

Baldwin’s quick draw gun practice

The next significant revelation in the collection of new evidence is provided by silent footage of Baldwin rehearsing what would become the fatal moment. Sitting in Western costume in a church pew shortly before the tragedy, Baldwin twice practised a ‘quick draw’ of the gun from a holster hidden inside his jacket and pointing it towards the camera.

It had been a difficult day’s filming. A six-strong camera crew had walked out that morning in disgust over working conditions, so another had to be found, which delayed filming.

Baldwin used the time to rehearse the climactic gun battle his wounded character, a hardened outlaw, would have with a U.S. marshal and bounty hunters.

Later, the gun that was only supposed to be loaded with dummy rounds went off and a bullet passed through the body of Ukrainian-born Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother of one, before lodging in Souza’s shoulder.

Distraught: Armourer Gutierrez Reed

Distraught: Armourer Gutierrez Reed

Distraught: Armourer Gutierrez Reed

The desperate fight to save victim 

As the actors and crew were hustled out of the tiny church — now officially a crime scene — and replaced by police, paramedics and the film company’s own medical staff, the frantic atmosphere was captured by a body camera worn by an emergency responder.

Surrounded by medical equipment, bandages and four people desperately trying to keep her alive, Hutchins lay on her back, not making any sound but still sufficiently conscious to keep moving her arm above her head.

‘Halyna, stay with us’, one of the medics can be heard telling her. Another urged her to take deep breaths as an oxygen mask was placed over her face. The footage ended after they moved her onto a stretcher and out to a helicopter ambulance. She was flown to University of New Mexico Hospital but later succumbed to her injuries.

‘Halyna, stay with us’: Oxygen mask is placed on the mortally wounded Hutchins

‘Halyna, stay with us’: Oxygen mask is placed on the mortally wounded Hutchins

‘Halyna, stay with us’: Oxygen mask is placed on the mortally wounded Hutchins

‘Welcome to the worst day of my life’

Baldwin and crew members were later filmed in further police body camera footage sitting silently waiting for news outside the church.

The police also filmed themselves interviewing those involved at the scene. As Baldwin denied pulling the trigger and said he didn’t know how live rounds came to be on the set, armourer Gutierrez Reed — who has denied responsibility for the shooting — was questioned as well.

Clearly deeply upset — although whether more for Halyna or herself is a moot point — when asked if she was the armourer, she replied: ‘I am, or at least I was,’ adding: ‘Welcome to the worst day of my life.’

She later accompanied a female officer to a lavatory where she said: ‘I can’t believe Alec Baldwin was holding the gun. That’s so f****d.’

She then asked officers if she could go to a police car away from the rest of the crew. ‘I just want to get the f*** out of here and never show my face in this industry again… I’m the only female armourer in the game and I just f****d up my whole entire career.’

Shock: Baldwin is questioned by police after tragedy

Shock: Baldwin is questioned by police after tragedy

Shock: Baldwin is questioned by police after tragedy

Star is filmed facing the cops

Footage shot on a detective’s body cam shows him questioning Baldwin on the set, and the actor asking if he can change out of his costume before going to the police station for an interview. ‘I don’t know if this [is] suspected blood or real blood,’ said the officer pointing at his spattered waistcoat. ‘Oh this is fake. This is all theatrical,’ Baldwin assured him.

Even so, the police asked him to remain in costume. Police also released video footage of Baldwin being questioned at the Santa Fe county sheriff’s office.

Baldwin was filmed insisting to two police officers in an interview room: ‘Somebody put a live round in the gun. I rehearsed with a hot gun. It was supposed to be cold or empty…This is the most horrifying thing I’ve ever heard in my life.’

He asked if he was going to be charged and sighed heavily when told he wasn’t.

He said Gutierrez Reed had handed him the gun, adding: ‘You’re assuming it’s a cold gun.’

The investigators later told him that Hutchins had died. His hand covering his mouth, he froze in silence.

Why didn’t they use a rubber gun?

The police released emails sent to Dave Halls, the film’s assistant director, who has been accused of failing in his duty to check guns were safe. In one message, a friend warned that Baldwin’s ‘PR team is in overdrive trying to shift the blame from himself onto a worker bee who doesn’t have the money or the power to refute any of it’.

Even if Baldwin was handed a loaded gun, industry insiders say that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility. Hollywood actors’ union guidelines specify no one should pick up a gun without checking it themselves and should never aim it directly at anyone.

Filmmakers have a variety of options of what guns they use. Fake guns made of rubber are increasingly popular, but some directors and actors consider them insufficiently realistic for close-up shots.

An alternative is to use a real gun that has been modified so it can only be loaded with dummy rounds which look like bullets.

It appears that Baldwin was one of those filmmakers who didn’t like using fake guns. In a text message, Rust’s prop master Sarah Zachry told a friend that Gutierrez Reed had always wanted to use fake weapons on set, but said this conflicted with Baldwin’s wishes.

‘Alec never liked anything fake like guns and even the rubber knife,’ she wrote. ‘He always wanted the real knife, but eventually I gave him the rubber without him knowing. He always wanted his real gun.’

If so, he may now deeply regret his passion for authenticity.

Source: DailyMail

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