Big questions remain about the movie set shooting near Santa Fe where Alec Baldwin shot and killed a young cinematographer.
Our family took a special interest in this tragedy because on the same day 1) our daughter Ellie Ann was filming a warehouse shootout in LA for the TV series “The Rookie;” and 2) ours is a family that grew up around firearms. Some of us load our own ammo and shoot competitively.
Ellie Ann called quite upset the day of the shooting. The woman who was killed was three years behind her at the American Film Institute in Hollywood, and they shared a number of friends. She said that when word of the shooting reached the Rookie set, cast members were devastated, and were left wondering how such a thing could happen.
“Dad, when we started this morning the armorer took the gun to anyone who would be near it. Everyone was encouraged to inspect it.”
She said the armorer, a member of Affiliated Property Craftspersons Local 44, showed empty chambers, shined a light proving an empty barrel and showed dummy and blank ammunition.
Blanks are easily spotted cartridges with a crimped casing where the bullet should be. Dummies have an indentation in the primer, indicating it has been fired or is safe.
Local 44 weapons masters are required to have all relevant state and federal licenses plus plenty of experience. She said there is never, ever, live ammunition on a set.
Ellie Ann also said that the day of the Santa Fe shooting she was getting set up to film a muzzle-on shot when she was stopped by the armorer and told to don safety glasses, get behind a Plexiglas screen and to widen the angle between her camera and the line of fire.
“These are only one-quarter charges but they can still hurt you,” the armorer told her. Clearly this level of safety was not followed on the Baldwin set.
So, again, with such protocols in place, which have been followed safely in hundreds of thousands of productions, how could something like the fatal shooting occur?
Clearly someone brought live rounds to the set. The 24-year-old armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, on only her second movie production, said she has no idea how the rounds got there. She also acknowledges the gun Baldwin fired was unattended for a time.
Her insistence that she had not brought live rounds to the production has led to speculation that someone deliberately introduced those rounds.
And that would place suspicion on the six disgruntled union crew members that walked off the set hours earlier, complaining of late pay and working conditions.
We also learned that Baldwin’s stunt double had earlier accidentally fired two rounds after being told the gun was “cold” — indicating a weapon that doesn’t have blank or live ammunition.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” a crew member who asked not to be identified told the Los Angeles Times. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
Another curious thing is that the assistant director, David Hall, said he could not remember if he rotated the cylinder before handing it to Baldwin, even though he declared the gun “cold.”
When you open the loading gate on a Colt .45 or replica, all that is visible is the primer end of the cartridge. Dummy rounds have an indented primer; so, they would have been easy to verify – something he, or even Baldwin, could have done.
Too, a live bullet in a Colt .45 is visible in the business end of the cylinder, although it would be less likely to be spotted in dim light.
I can’t help but wonder what kind of insurance – if any – the armorer had. I expect lawsuits will be coming aimed at the production company, Baldwin, the assistant director and the armorer, as they should be, once the issue of criminal charges has been settled.