The fatal movie set shooting in New Mexico in which actor Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger is being treated as a criminal investigation by the police rather than an accident, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza.
In an appearance on Fox and Friends, he said: “I’d be careful using the word ‘accident’.”
“This is obviously a tragedy and it was avoidable, so right now it’s a criminal investigation,” he added.
He said that the Sheriff’s Department has been working closely with District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies but that it is too early in the investigation to say what type of charges, if any, will be filed. The investigation is currently focused on the presence of live ammunition on a set that did not require its use and who may have been responsible for bringing it there. The sheriff said that nobody has been ruled out when it comes to charges as it is still an active investigation.
According to the sheriff, all of the suspects in the case have provided them with initial statements, and some of the primary individuals of concern have already retained counsel. These include Alec Baldwin, who also serves as a producer for the film, assistant director David Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
Gutierrez-Reed recently spoke out through her attorneys denying certain rumors about the shooting. For example, there have been reports that crew members had been using the weapons for target practice during their off hours; Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys insisted that the weapons were locked up every night and during lunch hours and that the armorer never witnessed anyone using the guns to shoot live rounds.
However, someone clearly placed live rounds in the gun in question because the bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was recovered by medical personnel from the shoulder of director Joel Souza, who was also shot in the incident.
That bullet, along with other evidence is being sent to the FBI’s crime lab in Quantico to be analyzed. Although Gutierrez-Reed said that no live ammunition was kept on the set, investigators have found 500 rounds of ammunition that includes a mix of dummy rounds, blanks and live rounds.
“I’m aware of the statements, there have been statements that were made that there was a live-fire and target practice on the set,” Mendoza stated. “We’re going to track down that information and try and confirm whether that’s a fact or not.”
Baldwin tweets news stories pinning blame on assistant director
Assistant Director David Halls said in an interview with detectives that he typically checks the barrels of the guns for obstructions, while Gutierrez-Reed opens up the hatch and spins the drum to determine if it contains live ammunition. In an affidavit, he said that the armorer did show him the gun before they continued their rehearsal on the day of the incident but that he only recalled seeing three rounds. He conceded that he should have checked all of them but did not, and added that he could not remember if she spun the drum.
Alec Baldwin appears to be trying to shift the blame to Halls. The actor tweeted a news story on Wednesday in which Halls admitted that he should have checked the rounds in the gun prior to handing it to the actor on the movie set. Although he did not make any comments when he tweeted the story, it is the second story of this nature that he has shared with his followers; an earlier one also stressed that the actor was told the “prop gun was safe,” despite the fact that the gun was not a prop at all and police confirmed that it did indeed hold real ammo that killed Hutchins.
Yesterday, the 63-year-old actor surfaced in Vermont, where he was photographed shopping for clothes at a Ralph Lauren store.
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