The Santa Fe County sheriff is revealing more details about the investigation into the Rust shooting.
Sheriff Adan Mendoza appeared on the Today show Thursday following his joint press conference with the district attorney the day before. He made it clear that Alec Baldwin, who pulled the trigger on the gun killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza, has not “been cleared” in the investigation. However, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls “are obviously the focus of the investigation” as the two, whose statements to investigators were made public yesterday, handled the gun before Baldwin and told the actor it was “cold,” or safe, when there was actually live ammunition in it.
Asked if Gutierrez-Reed and Halls are the ones facing “criminal legal exposure right now,” Mendoza replied, “I can say this: Those two individuals are obviously the focus of the investigation,” Mendoza. “They’re the focus.”
Asked whether that means Baldwin — who court documents stated was handed the gun and told it was safe — is “in the clear,” Mendoza said no.
“Nobody’s been cleared as of yet,” he said. “Again, there’s three people that handled the firearm prior to the death of Ms. Hutchins, so those people will be interviewed, are the focus of the investigation and so nobody has been cleared as of yet.”
As for what evidence they need to determine whether it was an accident or a criminal act, Mendoza said, “The focus of the investigation is how the live rounds got there. Who brought them there and why they were there.” Whether it rises to the level of negligence or criminal charges, they will work with the D.A. to make a clear determination.
Mendoza also said there was no reason why a live round should be a movie set. (Hutchins was hit with a live round and investigators found a total of 500 rounds of ammunition — a mix of live, dummy rounds and blanks — which they took into evidence. It’s being tested, along with the .45 Long Colt revolver and two prop guns at the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va.)
“The information that we got in the industry is that there should be no live rounds on set,” he said. “So, again, we’re going to try to determine why they were there and who brought them there.”
It was noted that in the warrant, Gutierrez-Reed was quoted as telling investigators that “no live ammo is ever kept on set.” Mendoza said based on the investigation, “No, obviously it isn’t” an accurate statement. “That was a live round that struck and killed Ms. Hutchins. So that is not an accurate statement as far as I’m concerned.”
As for Halls telling investigators that he couldn’t remember if Gutierrez-Reed spun the drum for him, which is part of his job in checking to make sure only blanks or dummies were inside, Mendoza said they planned on speaking to him again for clarification on his story.
He also said they’re trying to verify reports stating that there were two accidental discharges on that set prior to Hutchins’s death. And that there had been some kind of target practice during downtime on the set. He urged anyone that witnessed that to contact the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.
Mendoza also wouldn’t give a timeline, but promised officers were working hard and diligently.
Meanwhile, Baldwin was spotted back in the Northeast with his family, though it’s unclear where exactly he is. The sheriff said on Wednesday he had been cooperative with investigators — as had Halls and Gutierrez-Reed.