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Alec Baldwin is cooperating with police in the prop gun shooting death on 'Rust' set

The entrance to a film set of <em>Rust</em> — where police say actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun, killing a cinematographer — is seen outside Santa Fe, N.M., on Friday.
Cedar Attanasio
The entrance to a film set of Rust — where police say actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun, killing a cinematographer — is seen outside Santa Fe, N.M., on Friday.

Updated October 22, 2021 at 5:54 PM ET

Expressing "shock and sadness" at the incident that has shaken Hollywood, actor Alec Baldwin says he is cooperating with the police investigation into the shooting on a New Mexico movie set that killed the film's cinematographer and injured its director.

Baldwin, who is also a producer of the movie, Rust, fired a prop gun during filming on Thursday afternoon outside of Santa Fe, police said.

Halyna Hutchins, the film's director of photography, was airlifted Thursday afternoon to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead, according to authorities.

"There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours," Baldwin wrote on Twitter on Friday.

"I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family," Baldwin added. "My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna."

The circumstances of Thursday's shooting are under investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office. No charges have been filed.

Authorities said they were called to the scene around 1:50 p.m. local time Thursday, where the crew was rehearsing and shooting scenes at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a filming location near Santa Fe that has been used as a Western set for decades.

It was not immediately clear what circumstances led to Hutchins's death. Generally, guns used as film props are either fake or, when real, loaded with blanks — though blanks can also be deadly when fired at short range.

Afterward, Baldwin was seen "distraught and in tears" speaking on the phone outside the sheriff's office in Santa Fe, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Director Joel Souza, who was injured in the shooting, was taken to by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, authorities said.

He has since been released, according to Matt DelPiano, the head of Cavalry Media, one of the companies producing the movie, who described Souza's condition as "fine."

Souza has directed a handful of small-budget independent films in recent years, including cop action movie Crown Vic in 2019 and family film Ghost Squad in 2015.

Meanwhile, production has been halted on Rust, which tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website.

Injuries and deaths from guns used as props are rare but not unheard of. In 1993, actor Brandon Lee, son of the martial-arts star Bruce Lee, was killed with a prop gun while filming a scene for the movie The Crow. The gun was supposed to have been loaded with a blank, but an autopsy revealed a bullet lodged near Brandon Lee's spine.

Numerous safety precautions are generally required when productions call for potentially dangerous filming sequences, including stunts or using firearms as props.

Yet accidents on movie sets have killed at least 43 people since 1990, according to an investigation by the Associated Press published in 2016.

"They are always the result of human error. And they are almost always the result of someone who didn't follow established practices," Stephen Lighthill, the president of the American Society of Cinematographers, told NPR's Elizabeth Blair on Friday.

In the hours since Hutchins's death was reported, there has been an outpouring of grief for the cinematographer, along with calls for greater firearm safety on film sets.

"We mourn for her family and we hope this tragedy will reveal new lessons for how to better ensure safety for every crew member on set," Innovative Artists, the agency representing Hutchins, wrote in a statement.

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Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.