'Rust' movie set investigation 'nearing completion,' Santa Fe sheriff says

The department released evidence from the investigation on Monday.

April 26, 2022, 10:14 AM

The Santa Fe Sheriff's Department's investigation into the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of "Rust" is "nearing completion," Adan Mendoza, the Santa Fe County sheriff, said in an interview Tuesday on "Good Morning America."

Hutchins died and the film's director was hospitalized after a gun held by Alec Baldwin as a prop fired a live round on the set of "Rust" last October.

The department is waiting for an FBI report with analysis of the firearm, the munitions, the prints and DNA as well as a report from the office of the medical investigator and analysis of cellphone data before the investigation can be completed, Mendoza said.

"The FBI has stated that it might be a few weeks before they finalize their report so we are hoping in weeks and not months," Mendoza said, referring to when the investigation could come to a close.

On Monday, the sheriff's office released evidence from its investigation, including hours of body cam video, witness interviews and crime scene photos.

PHOTO: An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M.
An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M.
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An attorney representing the Hutchins family said they were "surprised" by the release of the evidence while the investigation is still active and ongoing but did not comment further.

Mendoza said the department was required to release the evidence in response to a public records request and it was doing so in an effort to be "transparent" in its investigation.

While it has been more than six months since the incident happened, Mendoza said the case is complicated and the department is doing the best that it can.

"As you can see with the enormous amount of information that we've released, the investigative report is 200 plus pages, it's very complicated. It's very convoluted. There is an enormous amount of information, so in order to do a thorough report, I think we're doing the best that we can with the time frame that we have," Mendoza said.

Mendoza said no one has come forward and admitted to bringing ammunition to the set, but there was at least one live round that was fired from the weapon.

The film's producers were fined last week for failures that led to what the New Mexico Environment Department's Occupational Health and Safety Bureau called an "avoidable death."

"These are two separate investigations. But I think in our investigation, you'll see some of the same things and I'll say it again, I think there was complacency, disorganization. They were not adhering to proper safety protocols and industry standards, to be honest, so there's a degree of neglect," Mendoza said.

He went on, "Whether that reaches a criminal level will be up to the district attorney to determine."

The sheriff would not comment on whether Baldwin knew there were live rounds on set, but said it is "yet to be determined" whether he is vulnerable to criminal prosecution.

"The key component is also the analysis on the firearm and the FBI report. So once that's all collected, a thorough report will be forwarded to the district attorney's office. They'll make the determination who is responsible, if anyone," Mendoza said.

An analysis should show what it took to manipulate the firearm to allow it to go off and the projectiles that were on the scene, Mendoza said.

"This is a lot of information that we're going to work in conjunction with the D.A.'s office to determine if there is criminal neglect or criminal charges," Mendoza said.

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