Alec Baldwin was handed a loaded weapon by a member of the film crew and told it it was safe to use, according to newly filed court documents.
In a development that will raise pressing questions about how safety measures on the movie set failed with such tragic impact, it emerged the 63-year-old, who was seen in tears after the fatal incident at a film set in New Mexico, had been told by an assistant director that the weapon was a “cold gun”, and therefore supposedly safe to fire.
The assistant director did not know the prop gun was loaded with live rounds, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot in the chest on the set of the Western, titled Rust, and director Joel Souza was wounded when Baldwin fired the gun. The court filing said Souza was standing behind Hutchins.
According to an affidavit signed by Detective Joel Cano of the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office, as part of the police’s search of the movie set, the star of shows such as 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, was handed one of three prop guns that the film’s armourer had set up outside on a cart.
The crew member shouted “Cold Gun”, to indicate there was no danger as it was believed there were no live rounds.
But when Baldwin fired the weapon, a projectile emerged from the barrel, fatally striking Hutchins, and injuring Mr Souza.
The development came as the authorities released the audio of the emergency call that had been made by one of the crew after the incident at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, near Santa Fe.
“We need an ambulance at Bonanza Creek Ranch right now,” the caller, Mamie Mitchell, believed to the film’s script supervisor, told dispatchers.
She added: “We have two people shot on a movie set accidentally.”
Earlier on Friday, the star, who is one of four brothers, all of them actors, had spoken of the shock and horror he had experienced after the incident. He also paid tribute to the colleague he killed, and the person he injured.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter.
“My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
The warrant was obtained on Friday so that investigators in New Mexico could document the scene at the ranch where the shooting took place.
It noted that the star’s blood-stained costume for the film was taken away as evidence, as was the weapon that was fired.
Investigators also took other prop guns and ammunition that were being used as part of the film.
No immediate charges were filed, and sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said Baldwin was permitted to travel.
“He’s a free man,” Mr Rios said.
He added: “Regarding the projectile, a focus of the investigation is what type it was and how did it get there.”
The New York Times said a state magistrate judge granted police permission to search the scene of the set. Police are also able to examine the gun for biological evidence, and review any cameras, film, memory cards or other video recorders that may provide information in the case, it said.
Images of the actor, whose movies include The Hunt for Red October, showed him distraught and seemingly bereft outside of the sheriff’s office on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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