'Gun was never meant to be fired,' Alec Baldwin told husband of slain 'Rust' cinematographer, records reveal

Video from 'Rust' shooting investigation
Video from 'Rust' shooting investigation

Newly released Santa Fe County sheriff's investigative reports on "Rust" highlight a flurry of messages Alec Baldwin sent in the days after the accidental fatal shooting of a cinematographer as the actor grappled to make sense of what happened that day — and whether he would face charges.

After the tragedy, Baldwin reached out to the low-budget western's prop master, the film's director, a camera operator who was in the old wooden church that day, the sheriff's detective investigating the incident, and the husband of Halyna Hutchins, who died after a bullet fired from a prop gun pierced her chest.

The attorney for Hutchins ultimately sent Baldwin a "cease and desist" letter, according to a report that was part of a 551-page investigative file released Friday by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.

"I will tell you that among the more significant and salient points I put out there was that the gun WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE FIRED in that camera angle," Baldwin wrote in a text message to Hutchins just weeks after the fatal shooting.

In another message to Hutchins, Baldwin wrote: "The Santa Fe Sheriffs office may lack both the skill and the will to properly investigate the sabotage angle. I'm told their agenda is to write it off as an accident and throw it to the civil courts. And yet, the more information that is presented to me about certain anomalies on that day, the more open minded I become."

Sheriff's investigators finalized their investigation last month, turning the findings over to First Judicial Dist. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies for her office to decide whether anyone should be charged in Hutchins' death.

Carmack-Altwies has said that as many as four people, including Baldwin, could be charged. The actor has denied wrongdoing and cited negligence by other crew members. Investigators have previously said that, in addition to Baldwin, they were scrutinizing the actions of armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed and the assistant director, David Halls.

The report showed that detectives searching for clues in the deadly October 2021 shooting of Hutchins and the wounding of "Rust" director Joel Souza were stymied for months in their efforts to gain access to Baldwin's cellphone. The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office didn't receive a full report on Baldwin's cellphone data findings until August — more than nine months after the shooting, according to the report.

The delay was caused, in part, because law enforcement officers in Suffolk County, New York, were tasked with copying and reviewing the phone data files. Baldwin lives in New York.

“Mr. Baldwin fully cooperated with the investigation and turned over his phone with all records, including all records from the day of the incident, to the Suffolk County Police," Baldwin's attorney Luke Nikas said in a statement. "The Suffolk County Police then reviewed those records and turned them over directly to the Santa Fe County Sheriff, unless the records reflected privileged communications or were irrelevant to the Rust movie."

Baldwin turned over his phone to Suffolk County police nearly three months after the incident.

Suffolk County investigators then began extracting data from his phone but they didn't finish the phone data project until May. Then, Baldwin's attorney was given several days to review the data to make sure that personal information and privileged conversations between Baldwin and his wife and Baldwin and his attorney were removed before the files were turned over to the Santa Fe Sheriff's Office in August.

"During Alec's attorneys' review, a 'confidential' document was drafted which outlined several items on the phone that were 'flagged for removal,' from the final extraction report," according to a Sept. 7 Santa Fe County detective's report.

The phone log showed no phone calls from the day of the shooting were contained in the report. Sheriff's Office deputies' camera videos show Baldwin talking on his cellphone when he was first approached by a sheriff's deputy after the shooting.

Two days after the incident, Baldwin sent a message to his assistant Jonah Foxman and advised, "I have to delete my archive," according to the detective's report, which added: "There is no further details on the meaning of this message."

Baldwin's attorney said Baldwin's email to Foxman "is irrelevant to this matter. Mr. Baldwin was referring to his Twitter archive, which he has long considered deleting. He fully preserved all records related to Rust and turned them over to the authorities nearly a year ago.”

The same day Baldwin texted Foxman, he began communicating with Sarah Zachry, the prop master on "Rust." In December, Baldwin told Zachry that the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t tell him whether he would face charges.

Also in December, Baldwin asked the lead sheriff's investigator when the inquiry would be wrapped up because the issue was “putting a strain on his work,” records show. The investigator told Baldwin that they needed his phone records.

Carmack-Altwies will be looking into what other phones Baldwin may have used, said Heather Brewer, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. "The district attorney will [be] pursuing all options necessary to gather the evidence needed to ensure that justice is served," Brewer added.

The case file also revealed that sheriff's deputies who responded to the "Rust" shooting quickly uncovered numerous live bullets mixed in with the so-called dummy rounds, including one on the prop cart and at least one in the gun bandolier that Baldwin was wearing.

Authorities have not said how the bullets got mixed into the inert rounds of prop bullets.

Deputies encountered a chaotic scene as Baldwin and other crew members struggled to make sense of what they had just witnessed. Medics frantically worked to save Hutchins and Souza, who lay on the floor of the old wooden church bleeding profusely.

Baldwin shot Hutchins, 42, once in the chest during a rehearsal after the actor was told that his prop gun, a Colt .45 pistol, “was cold,” meaning there was no ammunition inside. But the gun contained at least one live round.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office also found an Oct. 17, 2021, photo on the cellphone of armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed that showed an unidentified man shooting a pistol in a New Mexico arroyo.

Matthew Hutchins last month settled a wrongful death lawsuit that he brought against Baldwin, the other producers of "Rust," several crew members and the weapons supplier. As part of the agreement, production of "Rust" is supposed to resume early next year with Hutchins serving as an executive producer on the film.

Last week, Baldwin sued Gutierrez Reed, Zachry, the weapons supplier Seth Kenney and the first assistant director for negligence that he alleges caused the fatal shooting.

The actor made the filing as a cross complaint in the ongoing case of "Rust" script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who is suing Baldwin and others for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

Baldwin and his attorney cited text messages, FBI analysis and other parts of the investigation to demonstrate that the crew members and supplier were negligent in their use of the weapons and ammunition and put the actor at risk.

Friday's release of investigation files included a passage from a group email sent Nov. 13, 2021. In the email, actor Aria Adjani wrote to Baldwin and a costume designer who had been outspoken in her belief that the "Rust" production was running smoothly.

"I would be lying if I didn't feel a bit unsettled with the chaos on set as an actor," Adjani wrote. "How there was absolutely no rehearsal for the scenes, how the [assistant director] seemed to be rushing everyone to move on, how the camera crew was trying their best to get shot and how we ran out of time for coverage on my (7 page) scene at the end of the day."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.