US lawyers say criminal charges cannot be ruled out following a fatal accidental shooting by actor Alec Baldwin.
- Legal experts say Alec Baldwin’s company and leadership team could face criminal charges
- Focus has turned to an “enormous” amount of loose and boxed ammunition found on set
- Insurance payouts could be in the “millions and millions” of dollars
Detectives found loose and boxed ammunition — as well as a “fanny pack with ammo” — on the set of Mr Baldwin’s film, Rust, where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was accidentally shot and killed.
The inventory list, filed in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, showed authorities also recovered three black revolvers, spent casings, a gun belt and more.
It is not yet clear whether the retrieved ammunition included live bullets, dummy bullets or blank cartridges.
Investigators are now questioning what kind of projectile was fired, and how it got there.
Juan Rios, from Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, said a forensic analysis of ballistic evidence would shed light on those questions.
Mr Rios said investigators interviewed armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, who was responsible for the safety of weapons on the set, but he gave no further details.
Investigators “are looking at everything that should have been followed, from safety standards on down,” he said.
In an interview with the New York Times, Santa Fe County district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said it was misleading to refer to the firearm as a “prop gun,” referring to media reports on the incident.
“It was a legit gun,” Ms Carmack-Altwies said.
She said an “enormous amount of bullets” had been found on the set and an investigation was needed into the nature of that ammunition.
CNN reported that Dave Halls, the film’s assistant director, who handed the gun to Mr Baldwin, was fired from an earlier movie over a gun mishap.
Potential for legal action
While Mr Baldwin is not likely to be held criminally or civilly responsible for the tragedy as an individual, experts predict he could be liable as a producer, along with several of the film’s leadership.
A huge legal fallout, in civil lawsuits and criminal charges, could potentially ensue.
Adam Winkler, a professor and gun policy expert at the UCLA School of Law, said there was “clearly negligence on set.”
In addition to Mr Baldwin, a call sheet for the day of the shooting lists five producers, four executive producers, a line producer and a co-producer.
This group, as well as assistant director Mr Halls and armourer Ms Gutierrez-Reed, could all face some liability, even if they were not on site at the time, Mr Winkler said.
The payouts — which could be covered in part by insurance held by Rust Movie Productions — would likely be in the “millions and millions” of dollars, he added.
Ms Carmack-Altwies said the investigation was still in its early stages and her office was far from making any decisions about filing charges.
New Mexico law defines involuntary manslaughter, in part, as a lawful act that results in death from “an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection”.
Jeff Harris, a founding partner at personal injury firm Harris Lowry Manton LLP, said incidents should be rare if the cast and crew followed regulations that are standard for the use of firearms in the film industry.
“They’re not complicated,” Mr Harris said.
But defence attorney Nina Marino said she doubted any criminal case would be filed.
“If a local agency in New Mexico was going to go forward with criminal charges, that would have a real chilling effect on further filming taking place in New Mexico,” she said.