Actor Alec Baldwin could be recharged in fatal 2021 'Rust' shooting death of cinematographer following expert report on firearm

August 17, 2023
Ben Marquis

Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin is alleged to have shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during an October 2021 mishap with an old revolver while rehearsing a scene on the set of a Western film, "Rust," that was in production in New Mexico at that time.

A charge of involuntary manslaughter against Baldwin was dropped in April but could be refiled following an expert report that concluded the gun could only have been fired if Baldwin had actually pulled the trigger, according to Breitbart.

Initial charge dropped over possibility of modifications and malfunction

During the fatal incident in 2021, Hutchins was shot and killed and the film's director, Joel Souza, was wounded after a live round was discharged from an old Colt .45 revolver Baldwin drew from a holster while rehearsing a scene.

The firearm was supposed to only be loaded with unfireable dummy rounds and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will face trial later this year on criminal charges related to her role in the incident. Likewise, assistant director David Halls, who handed the prop gun loaded with at least one live round to Baldwin, has already pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligence for not double-checking the status of the firearm.

Baldwin, who has steadfastly denied any intent to shoot Hutchins and repeatedly claimed that he did not pull the trigger of the Colt revolver, was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death.

That charge was dropped in April amid claims that the gun had been modified and may have accidentally misfired, though prosecutors suggested at that time that the charge could be refiled if further investigation of the matter pointed to any "criminal culpability" on the part of Baldwin.

Expert report reveals no malfunction, trigger had to have been pulled

That "further investigation" appears to have included a report prepared by a pair of firearms and forensic experts, Lucien and Michael Haag, on behalf of prosecutors that was recently revealed in a court filing, according to Variety.

Those experts repaired and reassembled the old Colt .45 -- it had been broken by the FBI during initial testing -- and ultimately concluded via their own testing that it could only have been fired if the trigger had been pulled.

"This fatal incident was the consequence of the hammer being manually retracted to its fully rearward and cocked position followed, at some point, by the pull or rearward depression of the trigger," the report stated.

The experts concluded, "Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings, and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver."

Charge could soon be refiled against Baldwin

According to NBC News, the expert's report included still frames from on-set footage and further detailed how the footage showed Baldwin "cocking the silver-colored hammer of a long-barreled revolver with his right index finger ending up on or near the trigger," while other frames also showed Baldwin's index finger "inside the trigger guard and either on, or near the trigger."

The report, which had been prepared on behalf of the prosecution, was actually revealed in a filing submitted by the defense attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed, who is facing involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence charges and is undoubtedly seeking any evidence that shifts culpability away from her.

Variety noted that shortly after the charge against Baldwin had been dropped, prosecutors stated at the time that "If it is determined that the gun did not malfunction, charges against Mr. Baldwin will proceed."

Now, following the release of the expert report, NBC News noted that Santa Fe County Special Prosecutor Kari Morrisey said in a Wednesday statement, "Charges against Mr. Baldwin are being considered but a final decision has not yet been made. We won’t be pressured by Ms. Gutierrez’s attorneys or anyone else in this regard."

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