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New Mexico investigators are exploring new theories about how a live bullet got into the prop gun that killed "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and are shifting their focus to the production's ammo supplier.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department received authority to seize ammunition—including live and spent rounds — and gun cleaning supplies from PDQ Arm & Prop, an ammunition supplier located in an Albuquerque strip mall, according to a search warrant issued Tuesday and obtained by Oxygen.com.
Hutchins was killed Oct. 21 on the set of the western when actor Alec Baldwin drew a gun and pointed it at camera during rehearsals. The weapon fired what authorities have described as a “live round” striking Hutchins in the chest and lodging into the shoulder of director Joel Souza.
While Souza survived, Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother, died from the gunshot wound.
Investigators are now trying to determine how live rounds got onto the set.
Investigators believe that ammunition for the film was provided by three sources: PDQ Arm & Prop, an individual identified in the search warrant only as “Billy Ray” and the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who brought some of the ammunition from a previous production, according to the search warrant.
Gutierrez Reed told investigators that on the day of the fatal shooting, she and prop master Sarah Zachery got the weapons out and took them to the set, where Gutierrez Reed said she “dummied the guns up with dummy rounds” shortly before lunch.
She told investigators that one of the rounds had been stuck, so after lunch she cleaned it out and put another round into the long barrel Colt .45 caliber.
According to the search warrant, Gutierrez Reed told investigators that the weapon had been locked up during the crew’s lunch break and she “didn’t really check it too much” after retrieving it since it had been secured. After a brief check of the weapon, she put the last round in and recalled passing the gun to the film’s assistant director David Halls, who had been standing in for Baldwin after the lunch break, according to the search warrant.
Gutierrez Reed said she was “hardly allowed inside” during filming due to COVID-19 protocols in place and later remembered hearing the gun go off.
Investigators also spoke with Zachery, who told authorities that after the fatal shooting, she went to check the box of ammo on the props cart and compared it to the casing she was handed that came from the suspected live round.
“Sarah said when she was comparing it to other cartridges in the box, she found that some of the cartridges would rattle, which signified them being ‘dummy rounds,' however, others did not rattle,” the search warrant states. “Sarah said this led her to believe some of the other rounds in that box were live ammo.”
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said during a press conference shortly after the shooting that investigators had recovered approximately 500 rounds of ammunition from the film set, which he described as a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and suspected live ammunition, despite assurances from those on the film set that live ammunition was never supposed to be on site.
As investigators delved into the source of the ammunition, they spoke to Seth Kenney from PDQ Arm & Prop LLC, who told authorities he provided the movie set with blanks and dummy rounds made by manufacturer Starline Brass—a company that only sells “components of ammunition,” not live rounds.
On Oct. 29, Kenney called investigators to say that he “may know where the live rounds came from,” according to the search warrant.
Kenney allegedly described how “a couple years back” he received “reloaded ammunition” from a friend.
Thell Reed, Gutierrez Reed’s father and a movie armorer himself, told investigators during a phone interview on Nov. 17 that he had worked with Kenney around August or September of this year and said trainings on live fire were provided to the actors on a firing range.
Thell allegedly told investigators that at the time, Kenney had requested he bring live ammunition to the event in case they ran out of ammunition and brought with him an “ammo can” with live ammunition he reportedly had gotten from a friend that was not factory-made ammunition. After the event, Thell told investigators that Kenney brought the ammo can back to New Mexico, according to the search warrant.
“Thell stated this ammunition may match the ammunition found on the set of Rust,” investigators wrote.
Gutierrez Reed’s attorney, Jason Bowles, issued a statement to Oxygen.com Tuesday applauding investigators for securing the new search warrant.
“The Sheriff’s Office has taken a huge step forward today to unearth the full truth of who put the live rounds on the Rust set, by executing a search warrant on PDQ Arm & Prop, owned by Armorer-Mentor Seth Kenney,” Bowles said. “We trust that the FBI will now compare and analyze the ‘live rounds’ seized from the set to evidence seized in the search warrant to conclusively determine where the live rounds came from.”
He added that he also hoped investigators would look into reports that a new ammo box had been seen on the set the day of the shooting.
To date, no criminal charges have been filed in the case.
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