Alec Baldwin appears to have depressed the trigger on his gun in the lead up to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office released a trove of evidence in the case on Monday, which provided deeper insight into how the tragedy unfolded. Video from the release shows Baldwin rehearsing the scene where he shot Hutchins. The office told The Reload the footage does not include the fatal shot.
However, it does provide critical information on how the negligent discharge likely happened. The video shows Baldwin repeatedly drawing his gun while rehearsing a scene. It shows Baldwin clearly had his finger on the revolver’s trigger as he practiced the draw. In the last take of the video, he can be seen pulling the hammer back and releasing it while he has his finger on the trigger. The hammer clearly falls forward after being released.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has released evidence related to the deadly shooting on “Rust” movie set in New Mexico last year. Included is this clip of the scene where the film’s cinematographer was killed by a gun in Alec Baldwin’s hands pic.twitter.com/enNq4sJLo7
— J.D. Miles (@jdmiles11) April 25, 2022
As I said back in December, this was always the most likely scenario to explain how the gun fired. On a single-action revolver like the one Baldwin used, the hammer will catch on a series of sears when pulled back. However, depressing the trigger while pulling the hammer back will cause it to bypass those sears. If pulled back far enough before being released while the trigger is depressed, it could cause a live round in the cylinder to fire.
Baldwin has claimed he “didn’t pull the trigger.” However, his description of the shooting makes that hard to believe.
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” Baldwin told ABC. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”
This is not possible without a severe mechanical defect in the gun or, more likely, the trigger being depressed. While it’s possible Baldwin kept his finger off the trigger during the shot, the video strongly suggests it’s unlikely. He had his finger on the trigger in these takes. He probably did during the final shot as well.
Baldwin may believe that, while his finger was on the trigger, he didn’t “pull” it. But it does not take much force to keep the trigger on a single-action revolver depressed enough to drop the sears which would otherwise catch a cocked hammer from engaging. That’s exactly what can be seen at the end of the rehearsal video.
Of course, this is only one part of the equation for what went horribly wrong on that set.
The presence of live ammunition on set, the failure of anyone who handled the gun to properly check whether it was unloaded, and the decision to film a shot with crew in the firing line of a real gun all contributed to the disaster. Multiple people had to fail in their obligation to ensure the production was safe for this to happen. It was never just one person making one mistake.
And complacency, as is often the case with negligent discharges, was at the core of what went wrong.