Gun used by Alec Baldwin on 'Rust' set couldn't have fired without 'pull of the trigger,' FBI says

Naledi Ushe
USA TODAY

The gun used by Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of "Rust" could not have been fired "without a pull of the trigger," an FBI forensic report obtained by USA TODAY concludes.

The report, released by Special Agent Jose Cortez, reveals the FBI did three accidental discharge tests of the firearm used by Baldwin to determine if it could have fired without a trigger being pulled.

Each test — with the hammer at rest, with the hammer in the quarter- and half-cock positions and with the hammer at full cock position — resulted in the same conclusion that the gun would not have fired "without a pull of the trigger."

During the testing of the gun by the FBI, authorities said portions of the gun's trigger sear and cylinder stop fractured while the hammer was struck. That allowed the hammer to fall and the firing pin to detonate the primer.

"This was the only successful discharge during this testing and it was attributed to the fracture of internal components, not the failure of the firearm or safety mechanisms," the report stated.

The FBI has released a forensic report in relation to the prop gun Alec Baldwin fired in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of filming "Rust" in New Mexico.

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It was unclear from the FBI report how many times the revolver's hammer may have been struck during the testing.

Baldwin's attorney Luke Nikas tells USA TODAY in a statement the "critical report is the one from the medical examiner, who concluded that this was a tragic accident."

"This is the third time the New Mexico authorities have found that Alec Baldwin had no authority or knowledge of the allegedly unsafe conditions on the set, that he was told by the person in charge of safety on the set that the gun was 'cold,' and believed the gun was safe," Nikas continued.

Baldwin, who also was a producer on the movie "Rust," has previously said the gun should not have been loaded for the rehearsal.

Among the ammunition seized from the film location were live rounds found on a cart and in the holster that was in the building where the shooting happened. Blank and dummy cartridges also were found.

Baldwin's attorney also claimed the FBI report "is being misconstrued."

"The gun fired in testing only one time—without having to pull the trigger—when the hammer was pulled back and the gun broke in two different places," Nikas alleged. "The FBI was unable to fire the gun in any prior test, even when pulling the trigger, because it was in such poor condition."

In a statement provided by her lawyers at the Bowles Law Firm on Thursday, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who served as armorer on the "Rust" set, said that "the primary question in this case from the beginning has been where did the live rounds that ended upon the Rust set come from."

"The Sheriff’s office made a conscious decision not to pursue this question at all by refusing to ask the FBI to test any of the rounds for fingerprints or DNA," she added. "We now know for certain there were live rounds on set. It is inconceivable that the Sheriff would not seek answers to this fundamental question and it raises a serious problem with the entire investigation. We have long sought this answer and will not give up in pursuing the truth to find it."

The FBI report notes that the firearm was "significantly damaged at the time of examination," but does not state when or how it was damaged.

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It also clarifies: "When an accidental discharge examination is performed, it may not be possible to recreate or duplicate all of the circumstances which led to the discharge of a firearm without a pull of the trigger."

In an interview with ABC News in December, Baldwin said he cocked the gun, "but did not pull the trigger." He said that he felt incredible sadness over the shooting, but not guilt.

"Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but it’s not me," Baldwin said in the interview.

In April, extensive video footage was released in the ongoing investigation of the fatal "Rust" shooting on the set of the Western movie. 

Files released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's office included a video of investigators debriefing Baldwin within hours of the fatal shooting, talking with him inside a compact office. The investigation files also include rehearsal clips that show Baldwin in costume as he practices a quick-draw maneuver with a gun.

Alec Baldwin on the set of "Rust" in October talking to investigators amid the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

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At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. They had been inside a small church during setup for filming a scene.

In a video taken by police later that day, Baldwin makes a few frantic calls as he awaits a meeting with law enforcement officials. “You have no idea how unbelievable this is and how strange this is,” he says over the phone.

"I don't want to be a public person," Baldwin says over the phone in that same video footage. "I'm the one holding a gun in my hand that everyone was supposed to have taken care of." 

An attorney for Baldwin said the newly released files corroborate that the actor and "Rust" co-producer was careful with guns on the set.

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"Mr. Baldwin welcomes this investigation," said Nikas in a statement. “The information that has been revealed by the authorities demonstrates, once again, that Mr. Baldwin acted responsibly.”

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said in a statement at the time that the investigation by his agency remains open and ongoing as it awaits the results of ballistics and forensic analysis from the FBI as well as studies of fingerprint and DNA.

“The sheriff’s office is releasing all files associated with our ongoing investigation,” Mendoza said in the statement.

In addition to the FBI report, the New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator stated in a report Monday that the fatal film-set shooting was an accident, following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.

In reaching its conclusion, the office pointed to "the absence of obvious intent to cause harm or death" and stated that there was "no compelling demonstration" that the revolver was intentionally loaded with live ammunition on the set.

Prosecutors have not yet decided if any charges will be filed in the case, saying they would review the latest reports and were awaiting cell phone data from Baldwin's attorneys.

Contributing: Charles Trepany, Edward Segarra, Kim Willis and Marco della Cava, USA TODAY; Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press