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The assistant director who handed Alec Baldwin the gun before Thursday’s fatal shooting on the set of “Rust” had been fired from another film in 2019 after a gun “unexpectedly discharged,” according to multiple reports.
Producers of the film “Freedom’s Path” told CNN that David Halls had been working as an assistant director on the film in 2019 when a prop gun on set “unexpectedly discharged,” injuring a sound crew member and halting production.
“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged,” producers from the company, Rocket Soul Studios, told the network. “Production did not resume filming until Dave was off site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.”
Halls was fired from the movie—which has yet to be released—that same day, according to the company.
“Upon wrapping production for the day, Dave Halls was officially terminated and given the specific reasons for his termination,” they said. “Dave was very remorseful for the events, and understood the reasons he was being terminated. A new assistant director as well as a new armorer were hired for the duration of principal photography. Production of the film finished successfully.”
Producers also confirmed the incident to Deadline and a source told the news outlet that the injured crew member returned to the set in less than a week.
Halls could not be reached for comment by either outlet.
Halls had also been working as the assistant director on “Rust” Thursday when investigators say he grabbed one of three “prop guns” sitting on a cart outside a church building and gave the weapon to Baldwin, according to a search warrant in the case obtained by Oxygen.com.
During the handoff, he announced that it was a “cold gun,” terminology used to indicate that the gun did not have live rounds.
According to the warrant, Halls “did not know live rounds were in the prop gun” and the gun discharged while Baldwin was rehearsing a “cross draw” with the prop gun.
Halyna Hutchins, the film’s director of photography, was shot in the chest and later died at a local hospital. Director Joel Souza was also struck in the shoulder.
Souza told investigators that the firearms are typically checked by the film’s armorer and Halls before they are given to an actor. He stated that “there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around the scene,” however, reports have suggested there were problems in the past with firearms on the movie set.
Before the fatal shooting, weapons had gone off on the set on at least two prior occasions, according to Deadline. Concerns about on-set gun safety had also been noted by a several members of Rust’s camera crew, who resigned earlier the day of the shooting. They also lodged other complaints about payment and lodging.
Cameraman Reid Russel told investigators that shooting Thursday had started late because about six people had walked off the film, according to the warrant.
Despite the troubling reports, “Rust” producers have insisted that safety was a priority on the production.
“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” they said in a statement to the news outlet. “Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”
Juan R. Rios, a spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office, told Oxygen.com on Friday that Baldwin was interviewed by investigators and released.
Hutchins’ father, Anatoly Androsovych, told The Sun that he does not blame Baldwin for the fatal shooting and believes the fault lies instead with the movie’s armory team.
“We still can’t believe Halyna is dead and her mother is going out of her mind with grief,” he said. "But I don’t hold Alec Baldwin responsible — it is the responsibility of the props people who handle the guns.”
No formal charges have been filed in the shooting.
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