Hollywood actor and producer Alec Baldwin was involved in a negligent discharge of a firearm earlier this month on a New Mexico movie set that left one person, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, dead and the film’s director, Joel Souza, injured.
During a Wednesday press conference about the shooting, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said Baldwin had been cooperating with the police investigation into the shooting, but said the actor’s whereabouts were unknown at that time, Fox News reported.
“He has been cooperative. I’m not exactly sure of his present whereabouts,” Mendoza said, according to Fox. He went on to note that “it is too early right now in the investigation to comment on charges” for those involved in the fatal shooting.
At that same media event, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said criminal charges had not been ruled out for anybody involved in the deadly incident, however.
Baldwin “obviously” central to probe
According to the New York Post, while no arrests have been made yet, Sheriff Mendoza said that “an arrest or arrests will be made” if investigators determine that a prosecutable crime was committed.
The sheriff added that Baldwin is “obviously the person that fired the weapon so we are going to continue interviewing and getting the facts of his statements and the evidence.”
“He is an active part of this investigation,” Mendoza said.
It was revealed at the presser that a police search of the film set turned up three firearms — including the Italian-made Pietta .45 revolver used by Baldwin during the incident — and around 500 rounds of mixed ammunition that included “blanks” or dummy rounds as well as what are suspected to be actual live rounds, a significant violation of normal safety protocols, reports said.
“We are going to try to determine exactly how that happened and if they should’ve known there was a live round in that firearm,” Mendoza said, according to the Post. “I think there was some complacency on this set and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico.”
Lawsuits, charges possible
As for whether and what criminal charges could be brought against Baldwin or others involved in ensuring the safe use of firearms on set, including assistant director Dave Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, People magazine spoke with legal experts who suggested involuntary or negligent manslaughter seemed to be the most likely outcome, though civil liability via a wrongful death lawsuit could be even more likely.
“It’s going to be a nightmare for [people involved with the movie],” Albuquerque-based defense attorney Erlinda Johnson told People. Los Angeles lawyer David Ring said he didn’t think Baldwin would face criminal charges — pointing instead to the others who handled the loaded gun before him — but acknowledged that, as a producer of the film, he bears a level of responsibility for what occurs on set.
“He’s absolutely going to get named in any wrongful death lawsuit. You just have to show that there was negligence that led to the shooting, and it’s a much lower standard than a criminal case,” Ring told the magazine. “Obviously there’s negligence [in this case] and it just depends on who was negligent. But ultimately the production company is in charge. It happened on their watch.”