Newly-released Santa Fe County heriff’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 if he would face charges.
Following the tragedy, Baldwin reached out to the low-budget western’s prop master, 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 the First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies for her office to decide whether anyone should be charged in Hutchins’ death.
Carmack-Altwies has said that up to four people, including Baldwin, could be charged. The actor has denied wrongdoing and cited negligence by other crew members.
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 an effort to gain access to Baldwin’s cell phone.
Nearly three months after the incident, Baldwin turned over his phone to Suffolk County, New York police, which then conducted a months-long data copying project.
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 turning the files 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 detective’s report.
The phone log showed no phone calls from the day of the shooting were contained in the report. The sheriff’s camera videos show Baldwin talking on his cell phone 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.”
The same day Baldwin also texted with Sarah Zachry, the prop master, saying the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t tell him whether he would face charges.
In December, he asked the lead sheriff’s detective investigator when the investigation would be wrapped up because the issue was “putting a strain on his work,” records show.
The report 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 movie 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 an 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.
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office files also found a photo on the cell phone of armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed that showed an unidentified man shooting a pistol in a New Mexico arroyo several days before the tragedy.
Last week, Baldwin sued Gutierrez Reed, Zachry, the weapons supplier and 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 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.
This story originally appeared on LATimes