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Any Moment: Sheriff, DA Give Update on Fatal Movie Shooting; Sheriff: 3 Individuals Who Handled Gun have been Cooperative; Sheriff, DA Give Update on Fatal Movie Shooting; Sheriff: Gun Used by Alec Baldwin Fired a "Live Round"; 600 Items of Evidence Collected, 3 Firearms, Approximately 500 Rounds of Ammo. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody, welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. It's a very big day here in Washington number one for the Biden agenda.

Also, the Attorney General up on Capitol Hill right now faces questions about a host of big issues. But we begin this hour in Santa Fe, New Mexico where any moment from now we will hear from the Sheriff and the District Attorney holding a press briefing.

You see the setup there. You see them starting to walk out of the building. Today's the first time we hear from both since the shooting on the set of that Alec Baldwin produced film "Rust" killed their the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the director was wounded. Let's listen in the Santa Fe, New Mexico.


SHERIFF ADAN MENDOZA, SANTA FE COUNTRY: Good morning, everybody. And welcome to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office. I'm Sheriff Adan Mendoza.

First and foremost, I'd like to offer our condolences to the Hutchins Family, a speedy recovery to Mr. Souza, and our concern for the safety of all the men and women in the film industry. On Thursday, October 21st, 2001 at 1:48 pm we were dispatched to Bonanza Creek Ranch in reference to a 911 call, advising that two people had been shot on the movie set.

The first deputy arrived at 2:00 pm and EMS arrived at 2:01 pm. It was later determined that Halyna Hutchins, the Director of Cinema Cinematography, and Joel Souza, the Director had been shot while rehearsing a scene on the movie Rust.

During the initial investigation, it was determined that Actor Producer, Alec Baldwin was the person that fired the weapon. We identified two other people that handled and or inspected the loaded firearm prior to Baldwin firing the weapon. These two individuals are Armorer Hannah Reed Gutierrez and Assistant Director David Halls.

All three individuals have been cooperative in the investigation and have provided statements. Over the last few days our investigative team has been working diligently to conduct interviews, execute search warrants, and collect and process evidence from the scene.

During this process, we determined that there was a limited amount of movie set staffs present in the area where the actual incident took place although there were approximately 100 people on set. Through the execution of search warrants, we have collected about 600 items of evidence.

These include but are not limited to three firearms, approximately 500 rounds of ammunition and several pieces of clothing and accessories. We believe that we have in our possession the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin.

This is the wire - this is the firearm we believe discharged the bullet. We also believe that we have the spent shell casing from the bullet that was fired from the gun. The actual lead projectile that was fired has been recovered from the shoulder of Mr. Souza.

The projectile was recovered by medical personnel where he was being treated and turned over to the Sheriff's Office as evidence. We regard this specific spent casing and recovered projectile to be the live round that was fired from the revolver by Mr. Baldwin.

We have recovered what we believe to be possible additional live rounds on set. All the previous mentioned items, along with other items of evidence will be submitted to the FBI Crime Lab in Quantico, Virginia for analysis.

We are working thoroughly to gather all the facts of the investigation continue interviews and further analyze and process the evidence. I want to ensure the victims their families and the public that we are conducting a thorough and objective investigation.

In reference to possible charges it's too early right now in the investigation to comment on charges at this point. The investigation will continue and if the Sheriff's Office determines during our investigation, a crime has occurred and probable cause exists an arrest or arrests will be made and charges will be filed otherwise we will complete our investigation and for the full investigation and evidence to the district attorney for review.


MENDOZA: Before turning it over to the District Attorney, I'd like to thank our Investigations Division for all their hard work and diligence, in this case, the Santa Fe County Public Safety Department, EMS and RECC and the local FBI office for their support and assistance in this case.

Also, the District Attorney's Office Staff that has been working side by side with us during this case. I'd like to introduce First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, SANTA FE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Good morning. My name is Mary Carmack-Altwies and I am the First Judicial District Attorney, which includes - my jurisdiction includes Santa Fe County.

I echo the sentiments of Sheriff Mendoza and want to send my condolences to the family, friends and tight knit film community impacted by this tragedy. We mourn the loss of Halyna Hutchins and the injury to Joel Souza.

I also specifically want to thank the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department for so thoroughly and actively investigating this incident. Our office appreciates your hard work and together we will ensure that this investigation is held to the highest standards.

I speak to the prosecutorial perspective here. And I must emphasize that a complete and thorough investigation is critical to DA review. We take the corroborated facts and evidence and connect it to New Mexico law and we are not at that juncture yet.

If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time. I'm a prosecutor that was elected in part because I do not make rash decisions and I do not rush to judgment.

I rely on facts supported by evidence, cooperative and credible witnesses and I cannot stress the importance of allowing the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office to continue with their quality investigation that is both serious and complex. So at this point, we will open it up to questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we ask you so you said that a live round was recovered. Based on the witness interviews that you've done can you tell us what you've learned about how live ammunition was on the set and how it made its way into that firearm? We learned that it was possible target practice maybe earlier that day? What have you learned on that front?

MENDOZA: So I think what we've learned is we suspect that there was other live rounds that were found on the set. I won't comment further on how they got there. That's still part of an investigation is active so I won't comment on how they got there.

But we know we suspect that they are there that will be up will be determined when testing is done by the crime lab in reference to whether or not they are officially live rounds or not there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --Sheriff - how did two people inspects this gun and not notice there was a live round in it?

MENDOZA: That's what we're trying to determine? The people that inspected or handled the firearm when it was loaded before it got to Mr. Baldwin, we're interviewing and there's some follow up questions that we need to do.

So there are further investigation further interviews and we'll get - we're going to try and determine exactly how that happened. And if they should have known that there was a live round in that fire out? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --and other guys?


MENDOZA: No. I said there was a total of 500 rounds of ammunition that is a mix of blanks, dummy rounds. And what we are suspecting live rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --in director's shoulder that was recovered at the hospital?

MENDOZA: Well, we know it was a led projectile. It still to be determined by the ballistic analysis by the FBI Crime Lab exactly what the weight of that bullet is? Maybe whether or not it was fired from that actual firearm, there'll be the rifle things and things will be tested and compared. So there's a lot of testing that needs to be done to ensure that projectile left that firearm. And so that's what we suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, it's the man who pulled the trigger and as a producer on the movie does Alec Baldwin himself faced the potential of criminal charges and if the DA could perhaps follow up with that as well?

MENDOZA: That may be a question better answered by the District Attorney.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: All options are on the table at this point I'm not taking - I'm not commenting on charges whether they will be filed or not or on whom? So the answer is we cannot answer that question yet until we complete a more thorough investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --Alec Baldwin who - charges because you have not ruled them out.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: No one has been ruled out at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe no matter are you concerned about the other live round found on the set?



MENDOZA: He's obviously the person that fired the weapon. So we're going to continue interviewing and getting to - getting the facts of his statements and the evidence and the case and possible witnesses or anybody that has any information. So right now he is an active part of this investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --likely to be free --?

MENDOZA: We hope so. As of right now everybody is cooperating with statements and interviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, what the next step is? You mentioned this is an ongoing investigation, but specifically for your department what does that mean, specifically? What do you what else do you have to do?

MENDOZA: So basically, there are a lot of interviews that have to be done. OK, we've determined that there were a limited amount of people or movie staff that was actually in the vicinity of the incident.

So there have also been approximately 90 people on the movie set it. So there are a lot of interviews that need to be done. Still in this in this case and that's going to be important. There are a lot of facts that are floating around. I wouldn't say factors maybe facts and rumors that are floating around and it's our job to figure out if they're if they are facts or rumors.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --not a blank, not a dummy. It was like what people think of when you say --?

MENDOZA: So we would consider it a live round. A bullet live because it did fire from the weapon and obviously caused the death of Mrs. Hutchins and injured Mr. Souza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff live rounds found in other guns on set?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much can you take into account the previous accusations of onset, unsafe practices being negligent on other sets? We know you don't - and David, have negative practices on other set how much was --?

MENDOZA: Well, that's up to the District Attorney to determine how much that's going to weigh? But we are going to follow up on some of those statements that are made, that there were other incidents. We definitely want to speak to anybody that has any information in reference to safety issues on further sets or whether there were other issues.

And we would encourage them to call the Sheriff's Office at 505-986- 2490 with any information they may have. So we can get a good idea of what the totality of the circumstances are on this set and what's happening in the industry?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff can you -- other previous move production?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: And that is something that will play into our legal analysis when we get the completed investigation from the Sheriff's Department, it obviously could play into whether charges get filed or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously Sheriff responsible for --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --negligence and I know you said it's too early to come in and charges. But can you speak broadly to what your office is examining when it comes to an accidental shooting versus weighing negligence? Like what your office specifically looks at when we get to that point?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: When we get to that point, yes, I will speak to it. I don't know that we are at that point yet because again, we can't say that it was negligent by who - negligence by whom? How many people were involved we can't say that with any certainty at this point? So when we get to that point, yes, I will speak to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us Madam District Attorney, you're obviously Sheriff in the district you're obviously --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. Can you talk about what - response work there a lot of chatter about --?

MENDOZA: I will talk in reference to the caliber of the actual weapon that was fired by Mr. Baldwin. That firearm was on F Lli Pietta Long Colt 45 revolver.


MENDOZA: There were other - there was other ammunition in the gun that we believe was fired by Mr. Baldwin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where there other live bullets in any of the other guns that you recovered? I think that's an important point any other live bullets in any of the other guns including the one that you recovered from Alec Baldwin?

MENDOZA: As of right now there were three firearms that were located on the set within close proximity to the incident. We're still going to determine we'll send the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin to the crime lab and do a functionality test obviously it did fire a live round.

The other weapon is a Single Action Army 45 Revolver. That one looks like there's some modification to the cylinder and may not be functioning but that will - that will be determined by the crime lab. The other firearm is a plastic non-functioning revolver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff you're obviously responsible for --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you talk about tensions on the site. Obviously - six hours before the accident drinking or two members are drinking the night before like relaxed conditions?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you talk about that and specifically was there tension?

MENDOZA: I won't stop - I won't talk about specifics. But we are aware of those - of those rumors or those statements that have been made. And we'll do - we're going to do the best to track those down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're obviously responsible Sheriff --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --was rolling on the show? MENDOZA: There was a search warrant that was issued in reference to any camera footage. There was camera footage, but I can't say that there was no footage of the actual incident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --search warrants being pursued for locations other than --?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alec Baldwin's role as a producer factor into the investigation. How much responsibility do you think he actually had as a producer --?

MENDOZA: I think once we gather all the statements of fact, once we do all the interviews, then that will be weighed by the District Attorney to see exactly you know what, you know what weight that's going to give and reference your decision to make your charges?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --locations other than the movie set being pursued or executed?

MENDOZA: Not at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please give us an update on Alec Baldwin in particular from law enforcement view on how he's been --?

MENDOZA: Just generally he has been cooperative in this investigation.


MENDOZA: I won't comment on my perception of his demeanor.


MENDOZA: I won't comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For clarity, was it a live round or suspected live round?

MENDOZA: We'll say right now until and until it's proven by the crime lab. It's a suspected live round that was fired, but it did fire from the weapon and it just did cause injury. So that would lead us to believe that it was a live round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, can you speak to just the idea of public safety here on movie sets? Sheriff, you're obviously responsible for safety in this county just curious about your thoughts about the use of real weapons on the sets of movies?

MENDOZA: Well, obviously, I think the industry has had a record recently of being safe. 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. But I'll leave that up to the industry in the state to determine what those need to be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --the three guys were none functioning. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there precedent for a case like this in Santa Fe County, where you have somebody who fired a gun didn't? Clearly accidentally but you thought it was a cold gun, but other people loaded that gun where it's kind of not the person who actually fired it, but could be held liable? Is there any kind of precedent for a case like this in your county?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: No. No, there's no precedent,

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your investigation? I mean, it's a very tricky legal battle.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: It is very complex case. It will require lots of legal research and analysis and review. That's what my team is here for and that's how we're assisting the Sheriffs at this point. That said, again, we don't know how that's going to play in until we get that complete investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff two of the three guns --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the projectile taken from the director's shoulder - removed from director shoulders that same projectile that killed Halyna Hutchins?

MENDOZA: We will leave that up to the Office of Medical Investigator to determine but it's apparently the same round.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether there was target -- on set are you investigating whether on the - ranch property assignment --?

MENDOZA: We are aware of those statements and we are investigating whether or not that is true, or it isn't true? And I would encourage anybody that has any information that any target practicing or any firearm was discharged away from the movie set or for practice, or for whatever reason to contact the Sheriff's Office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff two of the three guns were nonfunctioning, what do you think happened here that?

MENDOZA: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said two of the three guns appear to be nonfunctioning on that table. What do you think unfolded that afternoon?

MENDOZA: Well, I think the facts are clear. A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional and fired a live round, killing Ms. Hutchins and injuring Mr. Souza.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --search warrant was just released through the magistrate's office. And notes - the gun all said live round should never be on set. Yes, they're clearly were live rounds on set. So this feels almost like a false statement. If the armorer is going to say that there should never be alive on a set yet there was what your next step is as the law enforcement investigators? MENDOZA: We know there was one live round as far as we're concerned on set. We're going to determine whether we suspect that there were other live rounds, but that's up to the testing. But right now, we're going to determine how those got there? Why they were there because they shouldn't have been there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you confirm that you've interviewed--


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --still in New Mexico or --?

MENDOZA: I'm sorry, who where you asking about?


MENDOZA: He's been cooperative. I'm not exactly sure of his presence where about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about the path - was fired up --?

MENDOZA: We won't talk about the specifics of that that's still being investigated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For clarity, we did multiple rounds --?


MENDOZA: I'll stay away from an actual timeline. I know, you know, based on what I said, there are several individuals that need to be interviewed. And from those interviews comes new information that we need to track down. So I don't want to put a timeline on it.

I want everybody to know that we're working diligently. Our investigative team is to wrap this up it thoroughly and completely. And so there is no timeline. We want to get all the facts, get all the statements, and present that to the district attorney's office for review.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you confirm that you've interviewed - Hannah Gutierrez Reed and the Assistant Director Dave Hall?

MENDOZA: We have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect --?

MENDOZA: As questions come up, other information comes to light. There may be follow up interviews. And so I would suspect that we would want to re interview them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --with a small number of people inside the area what has happened? How can we take you so long almost a week now to get all of it?

MENDOZA: Well, there were a small number of people within the set area where the incident took place. Those people have been interviewed. I'm talking about 100 people on scene in different areas. So those people that were in close proximity to the incident, they've been interviewed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --inside the revolvers and alley properties with their other live rounds inside the chamber?

MENDOZA: Not that we were aware.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You - Sherriff used the word complacency onset? What is the breach? How much do you have to go beyond complacency to get to criminal negligence hypothetical?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: I'm not going to answer hypotheticals today. I will say there, there is a bridge and it will take many more facts corroborated facts before we can get to that criminal negligence standard. And again, they're gathering that as we speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complacency in itself does not match the criminal behavior.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: I can't say that without specifically legally researching that, but my off the cuff answer is no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to the Sherriff, your experience with firearms what is your view of such complacency on a set of a movie?

MENDOZA: Anytime firearms are involved, there's -- the safety is paramount. I'll say that anybody knows that. If you know anything about firearms, anytime a firearm is around or about safety is paramount.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it actually live rounds --?

MENDOZA: I don't let my emotions get involved. This is an investigation. We rely on the facts. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --in that room, you've had a small number of people. What is a small number?

MENDOZA: The information that I received from the detectives that were 16 people in the vicinity of where the incident took place? Thank you for all your questions. I really appreciate it. I think that's all the questions we're taking today.


KING: Hello, everybody. Again, I'm John King in Washington. You've been listening to authorities in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Sheriff Adan Mendoza and also the Prosecutor, the District Attorney Ms. Altwies talking about the horrific tragedy on the set of the movie "Rust".

Talking about the evidence Adan Mendoza the Sheriff talking about 600 pieces of evidence taken from the scene including as many as 500 rounds of ammunition, the Sheriff saying he believes that more of the rounds that had been seized from the scene were live rounds.

And he says he believes subject to FBI lab confirming obviously that the live round fired by the actor and director Alec Baldwin that killed the cinematographer and wounded the director of this film was alive round, although again, that has to be verified by the FBI lab.

We're going to bring in our experts to walk through some of the other blockbuster things we heard at this press conference. I want to start with Larry Zanoff, if he is a Veteran Hollywood Armorer who has worked on many movies where firearms are used other weapons and potential weapons are used.

And Larry, I want to walk through some of the things we heard from the Sheriff and the District Attorney and you tell me whether they match up with acceptable protocols in Hollywood. Number one was three firearms taken from the scene two the Sheriff said are you believed to be inoperative one a plastic revolver and one a 45 caliber weapon that he said he believed the barrel had been altered in a way in which it could not fire alive right.

And then obviously the 45 he called it a Long Colt 45 revolver that Alec Baldwin fired and again the Sheriff can't say this definitively yet.


KING: But obviously, a woman is dead and another man is wounded from a live bullet. What are the protocols on a set? He said they believe other live rounds were found as well. Are there any protocols that allow live rounds on a movie set when you're going to be shooting a scene like this?

LARRY ZANOFF, HOLLYWOOD ARMOR & FIREARMS EXPERT: Well, the industry standards and guidelines governing firearms and blank ammunition on set which are clearly laid out in the safety bulletin number one, clearly state that no live ammunition is to be bought on to any stage or set or location of a television or film project.

So when we have actors and cameras and things like that around, we only use blanks live ammunition is not permissible.

KING: You heard him talk about what he called some complacency on the set, obviously, in your view of listening to him did not follow the protocols. Another thing he said was that there was a limited staff about 16 people he said in the immediate proximity of where this happened but also as many as 90 other people on sight on the shooting set?

Again, when you're going to be using firearms are there clear protocols, about how many people can be in close proximity? And how many people should be in the general area just on the question of avoiding distractions?

ZANOFF: Well, I think the numbers that the Sheriff was implying probably included the entire filming crew, which sometimes can be several 100 people. They of course were not actually on the set, which I understand was inside some kind of structure.

But the general guidelines in our industry is if you are required for the shot, IE you're the camera man, you're the director, you're the first assistant director, you're the armorer, effects coordinator, whoever is the personnel that is required to film the specific sequence. They will be on set. Other personnel that are not required for that particular sequence they don't really need to be on set.

KING: Larry is going to stand by with us. I want to get to our CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Josh Campbell, who was right there asking some of the questions. Josh, the Sheriff was going through along with the DA this methodical investigation.

He said as part of it number one, he said Alec Baldwin has been cooperating and has been interviewed on several occasions. He also said they have spoken to Dave Halls, who's the Assistant Director and Hanna Gutierrez, who was the armorer on the set.

They the Sheriff said were the other two people in addition to Alec Baldwin, who had handled this firearm - 45 revolver are right around the time of the shooting. Give some context on that and other major takeaways you got from listening to that news pro news conference.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. We learned a lot of information there about this weapon. There was a question about what type of projectile was used, whether it's some kind of blank round the Sheriff actually saying straight out of the top that this was a live round of ammunition, a lead bullet that went through Halyna Hutchins and lodged into the shoulder of the director injuring him and the Sheriff also doing something John that we don't often see and that is getting far out in front of the medical examiner.

In cases involving death we hear a lot of times we need to wait for the autopsy wait for the coroner's report, the Sheriff describes there toward the end of that press conference, this bullet shooting and killing Halyna Hutchins he himself describing that as killing her. And so obviously a key pieces of information there.

There's still a lot that investigators have to do as it relates to assigning liability and culpability that will be the purview of the district attorney here again, a question of liability, it could come down to the person who loaded that weapon, the person who handed it to Alec Baldwin, as she said, everything is on the table, which could include a possible liability for Alec Baldwin himself as the person who fired the trigger.

This is obviously a tragedy, but it's now up to investigators to determine exactly what happened in the run up to this tragic event and then obviously, for prosecutors to determine whether they will actually be bringing charges?

KING: And a key point you just heard Larry's Zanoff our Hollywood Armorer Expert say that there should not be live rounds on any set. There have been reports and rumors the Sheriff talked about he used those words, reports and rumors of others taking live target practice on that set in and around the shooting six days ago. The Sheriff said that they were still investigating there, Josh, but did I hear him right? He said they had no confirmation of that yet.

CAMPBELL: That's right. That is under investigation. I asked him that question based on your witness interviews have you learned anything about the live rounds? How they made it onto the set? How they made it into that weapon.

He said that he had heard those reports, but they are still conducting that investigation. And we know that they're going to do the witness interviews, but they're not just going to rely on the people in and around the set.

They'll likely be interviewing shooting ranges other places around this area in order to determine whether some of these cast members were actually out conducting target practice or whether they were out in one of these many remote fields all that will be information that they're trying to collect?