Alec Baldwin Rust shooting: Halyna Hutchins tragedy on set of western film explained - as family sues actor

The cinematographer was killed by a bullet from a prop gun being used by the Hollywood star

In October 2021, Hollywood star Alec Baldwin accidentally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust - a film he was producing and starring in.

Ms Hutchins later died from her injuries, while the movie’s director Joel Souza was also injured by the live bullet.

Now, her family have launched a lawsuit against Mr Baldwin, who is currently filming in the UK - his first project since the fatal accident.

So what happened to Halyna Hutchins - and what does her family’s lawsuit accuse Mr Baldwin of?

Here’s what you need to know.

Alec Baldwin was starring in a Western film when the fatal shooting incident happened (image: Getty Images)

What happened on the set of Rust?

Alec Baldwin, star of films including Mission Impossible, The Departed and Glengarry Glen Ross, fatally shot Halyna Hutchins while starring in the title role of the film Rust.

Local police said deputies were dispatched to Bonanza Creek Ranch - a popular filming location - just before 2pm local time (8pm GMT) on 21 October after receiving an emergency call about a shooting on set.

Ms Hutchins, 42, was taken to hospital but died of her injuries.

The film’s director, Joel Souza, 48, was injured in the shoulder by the bullet that killed Ms Hutchins as he was standing directly behind her.

After receiving emergency care he was discharged from hospital.

Halyna Hutchins was selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019 (image: Getty Images)

Alec Baldwin was questioned by police on the day of the incident, with local newspaper the Santa Fe New Mexican reporting he was seen outside the sheriff’s office in tears.

In a statement on his arts foundation’s social media account, Mr Baldwin wrote: “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 co-operating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family.

“My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

In a tearful December interview about the incident, the actor said: "Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can't say who that is, but it's not me."

What has been revealed about the Rust shooting?

Local police revealed about 500 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the set of Rust.

These included dummies and blanks but also some live rounds.

Santa Fe county sheriff Adan Mendoza said there had been “some complacency” on the set of Rust before the Alec Baldwin shooting (image: Getty Images)

Santa Fe county sheriff Adan Mendoza said there had been “some complacency” on the set.

However, no criminal charges have been brought.

In December, Alec Baldwin shared an open letter signed by more than 20 cast and crew that refuted claims the production was a “chaotic, dangerous and exploitative workplace”.

Two people handled the revolver, described as an “antique era-appropriate gun”, before it was handed to Baldwin, Mr Mendoza said.

They were armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls, according to the authorities.

According to a search warrant, Gutierrez-Reed - who has been blamed by some for the tragedy - said she had checked the dummy rounds before the shooting to ensure they were not live.

She told police guns used for filming were locked up during a crew lunch break but ammunition was left unsecured.

The filming of Rust at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico has been paused (image: Getty Images)

Following the shooting, Halls said he checked the gun and saw at least four of the five rounds were dummy bullets.

But a casing in the firearm did not have a cap to indicate it was a dummy, according to the warrant.

An assistant director handed Mr Baldwin the firearm and shouted “cold gun”, indicating it was safe, court records show.

He then pointed the gun at Ms Hutchins at her request as she tried to capture a shot.

The Hollywood actor said the weapon went off without him pulling the trigger.

But lawyers claim Mr Baldwin turned down training for the kind of gun draw he was practising.

What is the lawsuit against Alec Baldwin?

A string of lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the Rust shooting.

Ms Gutierrez-Reed is suing an ammunition supplier, claiming it included live bullets in a box that was supposed to include only dummy rounds.

She has also been named as a defendant -alongside Alec Baldwin and David Halls - in two separate lawsuits brought by the movie’s script supervisor and lead camera operator for the trauma they experienced.

Both of them were near Halyna Hutchins when she was shot.

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin - “and others responsible for safety on the set" - is now the target of a ‘wrongful death’ lawsuit brought by Ms Hutchins’ family.

The "reckless conduct and cost-cutting measures" of the actor and producers "led to the death of Halyna Hutchins", said their lawyer Brian Panish.

In response, Aaron Dyer -a lawyer for Mr Baldwin and the other producers of Rust - said they were continuing to cooperate with investigations and denied any suggestion the actor was negligent.

"Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false," Mr Dyer said.

"He, Halyna and the rest of the crew relied on the statement by the two professionals responsible for checking the gun that it was a 'cold gun' - meaning there is no possibility of a discharge, blank or otherwise."

Who was Halyna Hutchins?

Halyna Hutchins was a cinematographer.

According to her personal website, she was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle.

She had studied international journalism at Kyiv National University and had previously worked as an investigative journalist on British documentary productions in Europe.

In 2015, Ms Hutchins graduated from the AFI conservatory - a Los Angeles film school - and had worked on dozens of film projects since.

Halyna was selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019.

Her recent projects included 2020 feature film Archenemy, which was directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer and starred Joe Manganiello and Skylan Brooks.

Posting on Twitter, Mr Mortimer said he was “so sad” at losing Halyna and that he “was lucky to have known her and to have worked with her”.

In a statement, the International Cinematographer’s Guild said Ms Hutchins’ death was "devastating news" and "a terrible loss".

Guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said: "The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event.”

What is ‘Rust’ about?

The movie Halyna Hutchins was filming with Alec Baldwin would have been her most major credit to date.

Set in the US in the 1880s, the film is about a 13 year-old boy who goes on the run with his estranged grandfather - Mr Baldwin - after he’s sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

Alongside Baldwin, the film’s other star is Vikings actor Travis Fimmel.

It’s unclear whether production on Rust will ever resume.

Additional reporting by PA

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