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‘Rust’ shooting: Santa Fe sheriff doesn’t think ‘anyone is off the hook’ for criminal charges

“It’s too early to rule anything out right now,” Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

No charges have been filed at this point after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the Alec Baldwin movie “Rust” in October, but Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza says a lot of options remain on the table.

“It’s too early to rule anything out right now,” he told TODAY in an interview Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody’s off the hook when it comes to criminal charges. And again, we’ll work in conjunction with the district attorney’s office to try to determine that.”

A slew of evidence in connection with the shooting was released Monday, documenting what took place in the aftermath of the shooting. Mendoza says it’s unclear what charges may or may not be filed, given the state of the investigation.

“Well, I think that that’s going to be up to the district attorney to review all the evidence that’s provided,” he said. “The investigative case right now is 200-plus pages, so there is a lot of information. We’re still waiting on the forensics from the FBI crime lab, along with the final report from the office of the medical investigator, and there’s a few things that we have to shore up with the investigation.

“So it’s hard to determine right now the route that the case is going to go. I’ve said this before: I think there was complacency on the set. There was disorganization and a degree of negligence. Whether that rises to a criminal level, that will be up to the district attorney.”

The State of New Mexico Environmental Department issued a report about the shooting, which included a willful-serious fine for nearly $137,000.

"The report concludes that Rust Movie Productions, LLC management knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set and demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices and take corrective action," the state said in a release last week about the findings. 

“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” said Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.” 

NBC News obtained a statement from a spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions that said: “While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family.”

Director Joel Souza was also hurt during the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting, which took place on the set of the movie at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County, New Mexico.

Baldwin has said he didn’t pull the trigger, even though the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has said he did fire the weapon.

“I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is,” Baldwin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired in December. “But I know it’s not me.”

“The idea that the person holding the gun and causing it to discharge is not responsible is absurd to me,” Matt Hutchins, Halyna Hutchins' husband, told TODAY in February.

Hutchins' family sued Baldwin and other "Rust" filmmakers in February for their roles in her death. Variety reported that Randi McGinn, the estate’s attorney, said she expected the case would get to trial within a year and a half to two years.

Mendoza says it’s not his call to place any blame on the actor.

“Well, I think whether he’s responsible or not will be up to the district attorney’s office,” he said.

Live ammunition was on the set of the movie and the evidence released Monday also features text messages from the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, asking for live ammunition for another movie.

“It’s a serious mistake, always ends in tears,” Seth Kenney, the supplier, responded. 

According to the report, an investigator who interacted with Gutierrez Reed said she was “very emotional and getting more agitated because of the incident” immediately after the shooting. 

A lawyer for Gutierrez Reed did not immediately respond to TODAY’s request for comment on Monday.

“Right now, no one’s come forward and admitted to bringing the live rounds onto the movie set," Mendoza said. "There was information from text messages that was concerning, based on the fact that live ammo was spoke about and was possibly used on a prior movie set — and that was just a few months before the ‘Rust’ movie set production began. So, that is concerning.”