Alec Baldwin shooting: ‘Rust’ crew members had safety concerns before incident

Hours before actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust,” camera crew members and their assistants complained of poor working conditions and safety issues, according to a published report.

The Los Angeles Times, citing three people who were “not authorized to comment” on the record, said the workers walked off the set.

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The crew members told the newspaper they were frustrated by long hours, long commutes to the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and by waiting for their paychecks. The Times, quoting the anonymous workers, said that safety protocols for the low-budget film, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed. At least one camera operator complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set of the film, the newspaper reported.

Hutchins, 42, was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded when Baldwin, 63, fired a prop gun he believed was safe to use, officials said in a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe, New Mexico, court. The bullet struck Hutchins in the chest and injured Souza, 48, who was standing behind her, in the shoulder, according to The Associated Press and KOAT.

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Assistant director David Halls told investigators that he did not know there were live rounds in the gun, KOAT reported. It was one of three prop guns being used as the crew was rehearsing, according to the television station.

Filming for “Rust” began in New Mexico in the first week of October, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Production was expected to continue into November with 75 in-state crew members, 22 principal actors from New Mexico and 230 local people providing background talent, the newspaper reported.

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According to the Times, two crew members said that Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds on Oct. 16 after being told that the gun was “cold” -- a phrase used to describe a weapon that has no ammunition, including blanks.

“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” a crew member told the newspaper. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”

One crew member was so concerned about the prop gun misfires that he texted the film’s unit production manager, according to the Times, which reviewed the message.

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“We’ve now had three accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” the text message stated, according to the newspaper.

“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. 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,” Rust Movie Productions, LLC said in a statement. “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.”

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Thursday’s incident occurred on the 12th day of a 21-day shoot, the Times reported.

The scene to be filmed was a gunfight that began in a church, and Baldwin’s character was supposed to back out of the sanctuary, according to production notes obtained by the newspaper.

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Hutchins was looking into a monitor behind a camera operator lining up her next camera shot when she was killed, the Times reported. Souza was crouching just behind her.

Baldwin removed the gun from its holster once without incident, but the second time he did so, ammunition flew toward the three people around the monitor. The bullet missed the camera operator but hit Hutchins near her shoulder and then hit Souza, according to the Times.

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