FRI: Baldwin told gun was safe minutes before fatal shooting, + More

Oct 22, 2021

Warrant: Baldwin didn't know weapon contained live round—Morgan Lee, Walter Berry, Associated Press

An assistant director unwittingly handed Alec Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was safe to use in the moments before the actor fatally shot a cinematographer, court records released Friday show.

"Cold gun," the assistant director announced, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court.

Instead, the gun was loaded with live rounds, and when Baldwin pulled the trigger Thursday on the set of a Western, he killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded, the records said.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office obtained the warrant Friday so investigators could document the scene at the ranch outside Santa Fe where the shooting took place. They sought Baldwin's blood-stained costume for the film "Rust" as evidence, as well as the weapon that was fired, other prop guns and ammunition, and any footage that might exist.

According to the records, the gun was one of three that the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, had set on a cart outside the wooden structure where a scene was being acted. Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds, a detective wrote in the search warrant application.

Halls did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment. The Associated Press was unable to contact Gutierrez, and several messages sent to production companies affiliated with the film were not immediately returned Friday.

Earlier in the day, Baldwin described the killing as a "tragic accident." He was performing at the time of the shooting, the sheriff's office said. It was unclear how many rounds were fired, and little was known about the weapon.

"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. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation," Baldwin wrote on Twitter. "My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna."

No immediate charges were filed, and sheriff's spokesman Juan Rios said Baldwin was permitted to travel.

"He's a free man," Rios said.

Images of the 63-year-old actor — known for his roles in "30 Rock" and "The Hunt for Red October" and his impression of former President Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live" — showed him distraught outside the sheriff's office on Thursday.

Guns used in making movies are sometimes real weapons that can fire either bullets or blanks, which are gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but no deadly projectile. Even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic wadding from the barrel that can be lethal at close range. That proved to be the case in the death of an actor in 1984.

In another on-set accident in 1993, the actor Brandon Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a prop gun, and similar shootings have occurred involving stage weapons that were loaded with live rounds.

Gun-safety protocol on sets in the United States has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran director of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions to be in is behind the camera because that person is in the line of fire in scenes where an actor appears to point a gun at the audience.

Sheriff's deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot there, Rios said. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western "News of the World."

Hutchins, 42, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film "Archenemy" starring Joe Manganiello. She was a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute and was named a "rising star" by American Cinematographer in 2019.

"I'm so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set," said "Archenemy" director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. "She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film."

Manganiello called Hutchins "an incredible talent" and "a great person" on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.

After the shooting, production was halted on "Rust." The movie is about 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. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

Lee, son of martial arts star Bruce Lee, died in 1993 after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie "The Crow." The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series "Cover Up."

Such shootings have also happened during historical reenactments. In 2015, an actor staging a historical gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, was shot and wounded with a live round during a show that was supposed to use blanks.

In Hill City, South Dakota, a tourist town that recreates an Old West experience, three spectators were wounded in 2011 when a re-enactor fired real bullets instead of blanks.

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Berry reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Jake Coyle and Jocelyn Noveck in New York, Lizzie Knight in London, Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Halyna Hutchins remembered as gifted cinematographer—Hillel Italie, AP National Writer

Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was fatally shot by Alec Baldwin, traveled far during her 42 years. She grew up on a remote Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising movie-making career.

Hutchins was shot with a prop gun Thursday on the set of the Western "Rust" near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Court records released Friday indicated that an assistant director handed Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was safe to use. Detectives were investigating.

On her Instagram page, Hutchins identified herself as a "restless dreamer" and "adrenaline junkie." In recent days, she posted several images from the set, including an early morning shot of a cloudy desert sky, a video of herself riding horseback during a day off and a photo of the crew gathered to express solidarity with union members. The members of the IATSE union were seeking a new contract and threatened to strike before a settlement was reached last weekend.

According to her website, she grew up on the Soviet base in the Arctic Circle and was "surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines." She received a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine, worked on British documentary productions in Eastern Europe and graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015. She is survived by her husband, Matthew Hutchins, with whom she had a son.

"She had an interesting background, and I think that made for a unique perspective on the world," said one of her AFI teachers, Bill Dill. "She brought a wealth of experience to the movie-making process."

In a 2019 interview with American Cinematographer, which named her one of the year's rising stars, she described herself as an "army brat" drawn to movies because "there wasn't that much to do outside." She would document herself parachuting and exploring caves, among other adventures, and through her work with British filmmakers, became "fascinated with storytelling based on real characters."

After moving to the U.S., she took any production-assistant work she could find and explored fashion photography to learn more about the "aesthetics of lighting — how you create the mood, the feeling." In 2013, she was accepted into a two-year program at the AFI Conservatory. The school's chair of cinematography, remembered her dedication to the craft.

"She was very thoughtful about the decision, and it was not an easy decision. All film schools are expensive and this was not an exception," he said. "We were very impressed with her. I remember telling her, 'You're not going to have much time for your family in your first year at AFI.' And she understood that. She was really working hard."

Stephen Pizzello, editor-in-chief and publisher of American Cinematographer and a close friend of Hutchins', said she had not only a "joyful spirit" but a strong sense of how to network in the movie business. She was "tireless in terms of improving her skills and being in the right places," a regular at "industry events and parties."

"Everybody liked her," he said.

Before "Rust," her credits included the crime drama "Blindfire" and the horror film "Darlin," whose director, Pollyanna McIntosh, posted on Instagram that she was "the most talented, in the trenches, committed wonderful artist and team mate." Director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with her on the 2020 thriller "Archenemy," said she had a powerful sense of confidence and an inspiring openness to challenges. He remembered a day on the set when an actor had to leave and the rest of the crew had to work around him.

"Halyna was excited," said Mortimer, who recalled her asking if they would shoot the scenes "European style," meaning that they would improvise.

Cinematographer Andriy Semenyuk, a fellow Ukrainian who met Hutchins a few years ago through friends, remembered how she welcomed him and brought him to some of her assignments. He called her a mentor with a "magnetizing" personality who stood out for her willingness to help others.

"I think the big deal about her in general, beyond being extremely talented — which is a given — is just her generous and really open personality," he said. "In the film industry, which is super competitive, it's not enough to have talent. It's good to have this human, appealing personality."

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AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr and AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Advisory panel endorses redistricting maps for New Mexico—Morgan Lee, Associated Press

An advisory panel to the Legislature on political redistricting on Wednesday advanced three proposals for overhauling district boundaries in New Mexico's Democrat-dominated House of Representatives, with special deference to Native American communities.

Two of the endorsed redistricting maps follow competing recommendations from Indigenous nations and tribes in northwestern New Mexico, a celebrated cradle of ancient civilization where a recent decline in population threatens to disrupt and dilute majority-Native American voting districts.

A coalition including 19 Native American pueblo communities and the Jicarilla Apache Nation painstakingly advanced a plan for the northwest region that emphasizes each tribe's right to self-determination. Breaking with that emphasis, redistricting negotiators for the Navajo Nation have advanced a plan that focused on retaining Native American majorities of roughly 65% or more in six House districts.

Those Native American plans each won endorsement by the state's Citizens Redistricting Committee, alongside a map from the left-leaning Center for Civic Policy that reduces the number of state House districts in an area of Albuquerque with predominantly white, non-Hispanic residents.

In the redistricting process, New Mexico presents unusual challenges in efforts to comply with the U.S. Voting Rights Act to preserve communities of interest and give minority voters a fair shot to elect candidates of their choice. Nearly 48% of state residents claim Hispanic ancestry — the highest portion in the nation — and more than 12% identify themselves as Indigenous by race or by combined ancestry.

"I do believe that we have an opportunity to do something with the House map that has not been possible for decades, if ever," said redistricting adviser and attorney Lisa Curtis, a Democrat who voted for all three maps that won endorsements.

Ryan Cangiolosi, a former chairman of the state Republican Party, voted against the committee endorsements. 

He said the map from the Center for Civic Policy in particular had partisan objectives and was meant to make way for a Democratic super-majority in the House over the coming decade. The recently announced retirement of Democratic state Rep. Debbie Armstrong of Albuquerque next year makes way for that map with less friction from incumbents.

Cangiolosi urged the advisory committee to advance other map concepts developed by a consultant — without an analysis of partisan outcomes that comes later in the process.

The recommendations of the Citizens Redistricting Committee are a nonbinding reference point for the Legislature as it enters the once-a-decade process of drawing new political boundaries.

Republicans won a majority in the state House in the 2014 election for the first time in 60 years, but were relegated again to minority status in 2016. Democrats now hold a 45-24 seat advantage, with one unaffiliated representative. 

Several states, including New Mexico and Indiana, are using citizen advisory boards to temper political inclinations without taking redistricting powers away from state lawmakers. Judges might wind up using the advisory maps to resolve redistricting lawsuits.

New Mexico's Democratic-led Legislature plans to convene in December to redraw the boundaries for the state's three congressional districts, 112 legislative seats and a commission that oversees public charter schools.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holds veto authority in the process. It has been 30 years since Democrats controlled both the governor's office and Legislature during redistricting.

Proposed changes to a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico are under special scrutiny.  

Sheriff: Baldwin fired prop gun on movie set, killing woman -  By Morgan Lee And Walter Berry Associated Press

Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a movie set and killed the cinematographer, authorities said. The director of the Western being filmed was also wounded, and authorities are investigating what happened.

Halyna Hutchins, cinematographer on the movie "Rust," and director Joel Souza were shot Thursday on the rustic film set in the desert on the southern outskirts of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County Sheriff's officials said.

A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks, though a charge without a metal projectile is unlikely to kill at a moderate distance. Sheriff's spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the 63-year-old Baldwin was seen Thursday outside the sheriff's office in tears, but attempts to get comment from him were unsuccessful.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, the sheriff's department said. Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, where he is undergoing treatment for his injuries.

Production was halted on the film.

The International Cinematographers Guild confirmed that the woman fatally shot was Hutchins, a cinematographer.

"The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event," guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said in a statement.

Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film "Archenemy," starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a "rising star" by American Cinematographer in 2019.

"I'm so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set," said "Archenemy" director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. "She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film."

Film colleague Manganiello called her "an incredible talent" and "a great person" on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with Hutchins.

Baldwin teamed up as a producer previously with Souza on the 2019 film, "Crown Vic," which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles police officer on a manhunt for two violent bank robbers. His first credited film, 2010's "Hanna's Gold," was a treasure hunt adventure featuring Luke Perry.

Sheriff's deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot on set, said Rios, the sheriff's spokesman. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western "News of the World."

"This investigation remains open and active," Rios said in a statement. "No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives."

Filming for "Rust" was set to continue into early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office.

The movie is about 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. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial-arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie "The Crow." The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.

A Twitter account run by Lee's sister Shannon said: "Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on 'Rust.' No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period."

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series "Cover Up."

Human rights panel to hear Navajo uranium contamination case - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A group representing Navajo communities is presenting its case to an international human rights body, saying U.S. regulators violated the rights of tribal members when they cleared the way for uranium mining in western New Mexico. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights based in Washington, D.C., decided earlier this year that the petition filed a decade ago by Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining was admissible. With additional testimony and exhibits being filed Thursday, the commission is expected to hold a hearing in the spring. 

Lawyers for the Navajo group said the commission's decision to hear the case marks the first time that the panel has found admissible a petition filed on behalf of an Indigenous community. It's the second time for the panel to consider an environmental justice case against the United States. The first was a petition by Mossville Environmental Action Now regarding high cancer rates within impoverished communities in parts of Louisiana.

"Our filing today is crucial for the protection of our Diné communities, our people, our homeland, and our culture," Jonathan Perry, director of the Navajo group, said in a statement. "We will stand for our human rights and not allow our value as Indigenous People to be diminished. The federal government must realize that we are not disposable and that water is life."

On the Navajo Nation, uranium mining has left a legacy of death, disease and environmental contamination. That includes the largest spill of radioactive material in the United States, when 94 million gallons of tailings and wastewater spewed onto tribal lands in the Church Rock area in western New Mexico in 1979. It happened just three months after the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which got far more attention at the time.

Hundreds of abandoned uranium mines and radioactive waste still have to be cleaned up across the Navajo Nation. Tribal President Jonathan Nez recently said residents of the nation's largest Indigenous reservation have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation for years  and have endured a wide range of illnesses as a result, with some dying prematurely.

The Navajo Nation recently signed a joint proclamation in support of the group's petition. Several individual Navajo chapters have passed their own resolutions, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota submitted a letter of support.

Since 2005, the Navajo Nation has had a ban on uranium mining on its land, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

During a legislative session this week, Navajo lawmakers passed a measure that requests Congress host hearings regarding uranium mining, its long-term outcomes and reclamation efforts. The sponsor, Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr., said it will be important for Congress to hear directly from the Navajo people. 

"The healing of families can only begin when past wrongs are made right," he said in a statement.

According to the human rights petition, the U.S. government failed to protect the human rights of Indigenous communities when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed Hydro Resources Inc. to build and operate in situ leach mines — in which chemicals are used to dissolve minerals out of the formation — near Crownpoint and Church Rock. 

Hydro Resources is now known as NuFuels, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Laramide Resources. The company did not immediately respond to questions about the claims or future plans for mining at the site.

The Navajo group is making several requests, including that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rescind or not renew the company's mining license and that the federal government respect Navajo law and prioritize cultural views and practices. The group also is asking that a remediation plan be created and an environmental assessment be conducted of the effects of uranium mining and milling.

Eric Jantz, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, has worked on the case for two decades. He said the legal battle has been emotionally draining particularly for those who live near the site because the threats of uranium mining have been hanging over their heads every day for decades.

Community members Rita Capitan and Christine Smith said they have been speaking out about the dangers of contamination as a way to protect future generations and prevent further damage to natural resources that their communities depend on.

"Water is sacred. Water is life. Water is alive and water has rights and we all as human beings have a right to have good water," Capitan said during a news conference. "We've got to do it for our generations to come."

Navajo Nation: No COVID related deaths, 15th time in 22 days - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation on Thursday reported 77 more COVID-19 cases, but no coronavirus-related deaths for the 15th time in the past 22 days.

Tribal officials had reported 78 more cases and seven deaths on Wednesday.

The latest numbers pushed the tribe's totals to 35,660 confirmed COVID-19 cases from the virus since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The known death toll remains at 1,471.

Tribal officials still are urging people to get vaccinated, wear masks while in public and minimize their travel.

Based on cases from Oct. 1-14, the Navajo Department of Health issued an advisory for 31 communities due to the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.

All Navajo Nation executive branch employees had to be fully vaccinated against the virus by the end of September or submit to regular testing.

The tribe's reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. 

North Dakota man charged in Navajo Nation decapitation - Associated Press

A North Dakota man is charged with second-degree murder in the decapitation killing this month of a man at the victim's home on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico, authorities said Thursday.

A criminal complaint alleged that Shilo Aaron Oldrock, 28, attacked and decapitated the victim with an ax on Oct. 10 and burned his head in a wood stove before fleeing, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico, 

During a search of the victim's home after the killing was reported to tribal police, an ax was found next to the victim's body and his charred head was found in the stove, an FBI agent said in an affidavit filed in court.

The affidavit identified the victim only by his initials, B.K. He lived in the rural community of Navajo, about 31 miles (49 kilometers) north of Gallup, the affidavit said.

Oldrock is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and he lived in Fargo, North Dakota, the statement said. 

A lawyer appointed to represent Oldrock, Alejandro Benito Fernandez, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment about the allegations Oldrock faces.

New Mexico governor returns contribution, amends filing - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's campaign for reelection on Wednesday amended its October campaign finance report and returned $4,200 to a corporate contributor after a donation exceeded limits set in state statute.

Opposition political committee Stop MLG highlighted the original $25,000 donation to the Lujan Grisham campaign from Denver-based Intrepid Potash. New Mexico caps campaign contributions to candidates at $20,800 in the course of a four-year election cycle. Excess contributions were returned, according to a spokeswoman for the campaign.

Intrepid Potash is a Denver-based mineral company that employs about 280 people in New Mexico, primarily at Carlsbad. It uses water rights to sell water to support oil and natural gas development in the Permian Basin and also provides a potassium-rich salt to oil producers and other industries, according to corporate filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Intrepid Potash is invested in state mining and grazing leases. It has a petition pending before the state Supreme Court to defend water rights on the Pecos River in southern New Mexico that are leased to other companies for use in the oil and gas industry, after a coalition of rural water users prevailed in state district court.

The Lujan Grisham campaign also amended its filing to identify previously undisclosed sources of four recent campaign contributions.

Those include two donations totaling $10,400 from Chevron Policy, Government & Public Affairs, a $4,000 contribution from a political committee led by Democratic state Senate President Mimi Stewart and $2,500 from the Health Care Service Corporation Employees political committee.

Health Care Service Corporation oversees BlueCross BlueShield of New Mexico, a state-sanctioned provider of Medicaid health care coverage to poor and low-income residents. BlueCross also offers health insurance on the state exchange, bewellnm.com.

Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, is seeking a second term as governor in the 2022 election. 

Her campaign received roughly $2.5 million in campaign contributions over the past six months from an array of individuals, labor unions, political committees and businesses.

A crowded field of at least seven contenders are pursuing the Republican nomination.

Contributors to Stop MLG include Republican state House minority leader James Townsend.

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This story has been corrected to show the state limit on campaign contributions is $20,800, not $20,400.

Endangered orangutan in New Orleans expecting twins - Associated Press

A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan in New Orleans is pregnant with twins, the zoo in New Orleans announced Thursday.

"We are very excited about this pregnancy," Bob MacLean, senior veterinarian at the Audubon Zoo, said in a news release. "Twinning is extremely rare in orangutans -- there is only about a 1% chance of this happening." 

The births in December or January will be the first for Menari, 12, but the third and fourth sired by Jambi, a male brought to New Orleans in late 2018 from a zoo in Germany. 

It may be six years or more before the group's next babies. 

Sumatran orangutans wean their offspring at about 7 years old and have the longest period between births of any mammals — 8.2 to 9.3 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The great apes named for their long red hair have been decimated by hunting as well as the destruction of the forests and peat swamps where they spend nearly all their time up in trees.

About 13,500 are believed to exist in sustainable wild populations, and "overall numbers continue to decline dramatically," according to the IUCN. 

Watching matriarch Feliz and Reese, who came to New Orleans in 2018 from ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque, give birth to and bring up their daughters has helped prepare hand-raised Menari for motherhood, officials said.

Bulan was born in July 2019 to Feliz, who also is Menari's mother. Reese's daughter Madu was born in February. 

The zoo said keepers and veterinarians are giving Menari daily training and enrichment sessions to prepare her for motherhood and the possibility that she might need help raising one or both. 

If all goes well, the orangutan twins will be the second pair born at Audubon. 

Bon Temps and Lagniappe, nicknamed Bonnie and Lana, were hand-raised after their birth in 1985 to an orangutan named Sarah. Bonnie died in 2016 at Zoo Miami; Lana, 36, is in Greenville Zoo in South Carolina. 

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