The FBI has finalized its forensic analysis of the deadly shooting by Alec Baldwin last year on the set of the low-budget western "Rust," New Mexico sheriff's officials said Thursday.
Results of the FBI's forensic tests were not disclosed, but the completion of the FBI report is an important milestone.
The bureau's findings should enable New Mexico law enforcement officials to resume their investigation into whether criminal charges should be brought in the Oct. 21 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Baldwin shot Hutchins, 42, once in the chest during a rehearsal after the actor was told that his prop gun, a Colt .45 pistol, "was cold," meaning there was no ammunition inside. But the gun contained at least one live round. The bullet also wounded the film's director, Joel Souza.
The criminal investigation has slowed in recent months, in large part, because the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office had been waiting for the FBI analysis. The FBI sent its findings Aug. 2, Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office spokesman Juan Rios said Thursday in a statement. Deputies then provided the results to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, which completed its review of the case this week.
Law enforcement officials said they still need to access data from Baldwin's cellphone. Gleaning that information has become a protracted process, involving three law enforcement agencies in two states.
“The District Attorney’s office has been working with Suffolk County PD, and Baldwin’s lawyer to acquire the phone records," Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said in Thursday's statement. "Once Suffolk County PD completes its agency assist and sends those records to New Mexico law enforcement, our detectives will need to then thoroughly review those phone records for evidentiary purposes.”
The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, however, noted that Baldwin's phone records "are forthcoming."
Mendoza has previously said his office was reviewing the actions of Baldwin; the armorer on set, Hannah Gutierrez Reed; and the assistant director, Dave Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun. Both Gutierrez Reed and Halls have told sheriff's investigators that they did not inspect the pistol after the actors and crew members returned from lunch that day.
The fatal shooting has become a rallying cry in the film industry for safer sets.
According to law enforcement documents, during a rehearsal in the old wooden church, the film’s assistant director, Dave Halls, handed Baldwin a replica of a vintage Colt pistol, pronouncing it “cold,” when it contained at least one live bullet.
A key question in the shooting remains: How did live bullets find their way onto Bonanza Creek Ranch, where crew members were in the 12th day of a 21-day film production.
Previous testimony has revealed tensions on set. Much of the camera crew had walked off the set hours before the fatal shooting after complaining to the film's producers about alleged inattention to safety and a refusal to pay for nearby lodging.
Rifts had developed within the small props crew over their workload and two accidental weapons discharges the weekend before Hutchins' death. Guttierez Reed had complained about being stretched too thin. She was struggling to perform two jobs — armorer and props assistant.
A week before the deadly accident, a production manager scolded Gutierrez Reed for not paying sufficient attention to handling props.
“Since we’ve started, I’ve had a lot of days where my job should only be to focus on the guns and everyone’s safety,” Gutierrez Reed wrote in an Oct. 14 email viewed by The Times. She noted that on gun-heavy days during the filming, the assistant props role “has to take a back seat. Live fire arms on set is absolutely my priority.”
In Thursday's statement , the Sheriff's spokesman said after detectives complete their review of the medical investigator's reports and the phone records, they will turn the entire investigative case file over to the District Attorney.
New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, and her prosecution team, will decide whether to bring criminal charges.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.