The Gun Did It? Baldwin Denies Pulling The Trigger in Fatal “Rust” Shooting

Recently, I noted the curious scene of actor Alec Baldwin insisting with reporters that he has been given clear legal instructions not to discuss the shooting of Halyna Hutchins at the set of the movie “Rust” . . . and then making detailed statements about the shooting. Now, with an ongoing criminal investigation and various civil lawsuits expected to be filed, Baldwin has given a detailed statement to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, including a surprising claim that he never pointed the gun or pulled the trigger.  That interview may be one of his most watched scenes, particularly if he is charged criminally or sued civilly.[Update: Santa Fe’s Democrat D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies has stated that it is possible that Baldwin didn’t pull the trigger on the gun].

In the interview, Baldwin clearly and expressly denies ever pulling the trigger or even pointing the gun at Hutchins: “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger. I would never point a gun at someone and pull the trigger on them, never.”

That is a bold statement to be sure and it locks in Baldwin’s defense for better or worse. It would seem that he will be arguing that the gun discharged on its own. As an antique Colt 45, it may be argued that the weapon discharged without the conscious pulling of the trigger. That would make the gun defective. Baldwin also added “Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.”

As noted earlier, the problem is that Baldwin was not just an actor but a producer on the set. He was arguably responsible for the set itself and the props.

What is most striking about the new claim is that it is subject to physical testing and even a demonstrative exhibit before the jury.  If experts report that the gun did not have a “hair trigger” or some defect, it would greatly erode Baldwin’s credibility.  It is very unlikely that his counsel has had access to the gun or even any film evidence from the scene. Notably, however, they do have the statement of an assistant director that he thought the shooting was a “misfire.”

Moreover, I am surprised that Baldwin claims that he would never point even a prop gun at someone and pull the trigger. Given his many shooting scenes, that would be disprovable.

 

The defense certainly could argue that, as an actor, Baldwin is unfamiliar with guns and did not “mean to pull the trigger.” However, this interview locks him into an absolute denial of pointing the gun and pulling the trigger. That is a considerable risk when the investigation is not complete and Baldwin’s counsel does not know what the forensic and eyewitness testimony will say.

Baldwin has also called for police officers to be assigned to movie sets to control the use of prop guns — a remarkably dim proposal. Police departments are not designed to be prop managers for Hollywood.

Baldwin’s worlds — cinematic and actual — appear to be merging in this scandal. In The Hunt for Red October, Baldwin (as Jack Ryan) objected “I don’t react well to bullets.” This is not a particularly good reaction to the investigation into this shooting. The police have not issued a report on how this bullet found its way to the site or how it was discharged. Pending the release of such evidence, Baldwin’s decision to give an interview on the details of the incident was highly ill-advised.

103 thoughts on “The Gun Did It? Baldwin Denies Pulling The Trigger in Fatal “Rust” Shooting”

  1. I can hear the Baldwin attorneys screaming keep your blankety blank mouth shut. He must have some kind of huge ego to think that he can just say anything that rises up in his brain. He must be amazingly narcissistic or very stupid. More than likely he is both. In Shakespeare’s day actors were not very intelligent. It seems like nothing has changed in the present day at The Globe.

    1. In the movie Miami Blues Baldwin aims and fires what appears to be a real handgun, a Desert Eagle, conversely Fred Ward appears to aim and fire the exact pistol Baldwin later fires and kills the cinematographer. In any case for being anti gun Baldwin chooses roles he is a natural for aiming and shooting firearms.

    2. He didn’t point the gun or pull the trigger. Well, I guess that proves that people don’t kill people, guns kill people. SMH

  2. I think this is the source of the saying, ‘going off half cocked.’ The way a single-action with a fixed firing pin works, normally the hammer rests in a neutral position determined by springs, until it is cocked. The operator is expected to fully cock the hammer, in which case the hammer will be retained by the sear until the trigger is pulled. The trigger will pull the sear out of engagement, then a robust spring rapidly drives the hammer past its neutral position so the firing pin contacts the primer, igniting the cartridge.

    Now, envision a situation where the pistol is loaded, and the operator thumbs the hammer back without pulling it fully into the cocked position, not realizing the significance of what they have just done. They have not engaged the sear, so at this point, the trigger plays no role. Once the operator releases the thumb, the spring will drive the hammer forward as usual and the firing pin will very likely contact the primer, discharging the round. Baldwin may not ‘feel guilty’ but a young woman lies dead at his hand from his ignorance and carelessness in handling a firearm.

  3. Professor Turley Writes:

    “As noted earlier, the problem is that Baldwin was not just an actor but a producer on the set. He was arguably responsible for the set itself and the props”.
    …………………………………………………………………….

    To anyone outside Hollywood, this argument that Baldwin, as ‘Producer’, was responsible for set and props, would seem to make sense.

    But here in Hollywood the top-billed star is often given a ‘Producer Deal’. Meaning they are credited as a ‘Producer’ for purposes of profit-sharing. These deals have become routine for both movies and TV shows.

    Said deals have, in fact, been a source of contention amongst members of the Screen Actors Guild. When stars are also producers, they have conflicts if SAG interests collide with those of producers.

    But as far as day-to-day operations go, stars are usually more focused on their roles than production oversight. The First-Assistant Director generally functions as manager on set. There is also a Second Assistant Director, Second-Second Assistant Director, several Production Assistants and a Locations Manager.

    I have no inside track on this production. It has been reported, however, that Baldwin has 3 or 4 Producer Partners on this film. So it’s not just Baldwin’s baby.

    In any event, the production would have been wise to wrap for the day after crew members walked-out on the day in question. That ‘is’ a decision Baldwin could have influenced had he chosen to. Crew members are ‘not’ in the habit of walking-out and the fact that they did was an ominous development.

    1. Professor Turley Writes:

      Baldwin has also called for police officers to be assigned to movie sets to control the use of prop guns — a remarkably dim proposal. Police departments are not designed to be prop managers for Hollywood.
      …………………………………………………….

      It ‘sounds’ ridiculous that Baldwin would say this. But Baldwin may have meant ‘Retired Police Officers’. Here in Hollywood, retired cops are often used to direct traffic when productions shoot on public streets. And oddly those retired cops are allowed to wear their old uniforms and drive police-like motorcycles. In fact, some of these retirees are as old as 70 (which can look peculiar).

      Back when Bill Branton was Chief of the LAPD, he gave a radio interview in which he expressed dismay that long-retired cops are allowed to wear uniforms. But it seems Branton was unable to stop this common practice.

  4. Something that seems to be overlooked here is the existence of half-cock and quarter-cock detents on the hammer tumbler. If you pull back the hammer on this particular revolver almost-but not quite- all the way, then let it go without pulling the trigger, it will NOT fall onto the primer and fire a round. It will fall instead to the half-cock detent and stop there. If you pull out back to just before the half-cock and let it go, it STILL won’t strike the primer, it will fall to the quarter-cock detent and stop there.

    The only way to pull the hammer back and let it fall to the primer without pulling the trigger, absent a very obvious mechanical failure, is to pull it back no further than just before quarter-cock. For those who remember physics from school, that’s less than a sixteenth the stored energy in the hammer strike compared to full cock. For that light a strike to ignite the primer would be rather implausible. It also wouldn’t comport with Baldwin’s description of the incident.

  5. For those like me who know nothing about guns, on GMA this morning, a Hollywood armorer explained the issue. Baldwin said to Stephanopoulus that he didn’t pull the trigger but he “just” pulled back the “hammer” (I think that was the term he used). The armorer explained that the whole purpose of the trigger is to make the hammer go back (before going forward and hitting the bullet and setting it off I guess)… pulling the trigger and pulling back the hammer are effectively one and the same

  6. Whoever last held the gun is responsible. Even with a “hair trigger” an antique pistol won’t fire without a finger on the trigger, unless dropped or bumped.Finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

    Second, you check the chamber of a revolver during transfer. The giver can open the cylinder for inspection or the recipient could check it.

    There are other gun safety rules such as not pointing the muzzle at anything you don’t want to destroy but in a Hollywood action that’s not always possible.

    If you hand me a gun and I fail to clear it, whatever happens next is my responsibility. Best practice is for the giver to clear it and let the receiver see and then check it themselves.

  7. Off topic. Medicare supplements
    I won’t say my state or town. A local office has a program for muscle rehab. It’s spoken of as “A role in the hay for $100 a day.”.
    Medicare pays for a daily full sex experience with a girl named Sue
    Can Medicare supplements pay for such therapy for those with back and hip sisfunction?

  8. oops “above @4.02” should be the other above, “below @ 4:02pm”. Sorry, thought I was replying instead of making a new post.

    There seems to be some confusion about Baldwin’s denial. He said he would never point a gun at anyone AND pull the trigger. He admitted pointing the gun AND releasing the hammer which had the same effect as pulling the trigger. He maintains, likely truthfully, that he did not both point the gun AND pull the trigger.

    1. Lefty – or he might have no realized he pulled the trigger, he could have caught the trigger on clothing while drawing it crosswise, or he could simply be lying. There could be a range of explanations. Whether the action was on the hammer itself, or the trigger, it was Baldwin who fired it.

      It took a series of serious failures in set and gun safety by multiple people for a loaded gun to be in Baldwin’s hands, pointed at a human being, and fired by Baldwin.

      1. Karen @ 9.32pm

        And your point is?

        I was commenting on repeated observations by Mr. Turley, in the title of this post as well as in the body, and by several commenters, including you, that Baldwin’s assertion that he would never point a gun AND pull the trigger were problematic. It is entirely possible that he was telling the truth. It makes no difference to the victim, she is still dead, and Baldwin was still holding, operating and pointing the gun when it fired and killed her.

        I quoted another commenter that it would be possible to pull the hammer back short of a half cock stop and it could have enough energy to ignite a primer when released. Elsewhere I have seen another possible scenario. If Baldwin had previously pulled the trigger the uncocked gun would not have gone off. If he had then held the trigger depressed, easy to do, and then pulled the hammer back and released it, as he has admitted doing, the partial cock stops would not have stopped the hammer from striking the primer and firing the round.

        That makes two scenarios that do not require a clothing malfunction, mysterious circumstances or Baldwin lying that are mechanically possible and consistent with what he has said. As Occam noted long ago, simple explanations that are consistent with events are more likely than made up hypotheses. Janet Jackson had a clothing malfunction. There is no evidence that Alec Baldwin did as you supposed.

        I commented much earlier in this thread that we have seen Baldwins’s defense:

        1 I didn’t know the gun was loaded (and old sad story)
        2 I didn’t (point the gun and) pull the trigger
        3 She told me to point the gun at her

  9. “The defense certainly could argue that, as an actor, Baldwin is unfamiliar with guns and did not “mean to pull the trigger.” However, this interview locks him into an absolute denial of pointing the gun and pulling the trigger. That is a considerable risk when the investigation is not complete and Baldwin’s counsel does not know what the forensic and eyewitness testimony will say.”
    *******************************
    Movie actors are trained in firearm safety as are producers.

  10. From the Baldwin interview: “At that point, Baldwin said, he began to cock the gun but did not pull the trigger. “I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off,” Baldwin said”

    Looks like John above @4:02 had it exactly right: “the hammer is back far enough to pop a primer without locking back”

    Baldwin also said the cinematographer told him to point the gun at her using what seems likely a euphemism “below her left armpit” for what was actually said.

    So we have Baldwin’s defense:
    1 I didn’t know the gun was loaded (an old sad story)
    2 I didn’t pull the trigger
    3 She told me to point the gun at her and cock it

    Oh, and Baldwin claimed he didn’t know until about 45 minutes later that she had been shot. Really, cough, cough…

    1. Ought, couch, wizz, wizz, oh what a relief it is.
      The dumb schmuck pulled back the hammer. He was arm and hammer.
      His action fired the gun. Not a prop.

      1. If you pull the hammer back and let it go without clicking it then the gun will fire.
        Went in dumb. Come out dumb too. Hustling round Hollywood in his alligator shoes.

  11. I see this as being a very clever move. Alec knows he is not only a public figure, but due to his public statements on policy issues such as gun control, he is also a political figure. The positions he is taking are designed to divide the country politically — guns are inherently and intrinsically dangerous — only the police are capable of competently handling a firearm, i.e., government should have a monopoly on the use of violence. These positions are divisive and will make his case a political case where people (and jurors) tend to get irrational. If he is criminally charged in a politics tainted case, all he needs is one irrational blue juror to avoid conviction. It is hard enough to convict a celebrity, you add to that a gun-phobic juror politically predisposed to think the gun could do this all by itself, not to mention a red vs. blue team mentality, and a hung jury, if not outright acquittal is almost assured.

    1. guns are inherently and intrinsically dangerous

      There are thousands of things that are “inherently and intrinsically dangerous”

      Guns are not one of those things.
      Humans would be at the top of the list

  12. Turkey:. You left out something Alec said. I let go the …..
    You know. The thing you pull back which goes forward to slam into the bullet and fire the gun. One doesn’t need to pull the trigger.

  13. Standard forensic firearms testing includes determining the trigger pull of the weapon being examined. This is done to insure that the weapon is safe to handle for test firing. A hair trigger is one with a pull <1 lb. Handguns typically have much higher trigger pulls.

  14. I think that for once, NPR called it: this is all a big teaser scam to suck you in to the interview. All quotes taken out of contest. Stephanopolis probably asked him: “When you were 5 years old, did you decide to go to Kindergarten?” Baldy: “I never pulled the trigger on that. My parents decided for me”

  15. This is why people under criminal investigation should not give interviews.

    A gun is not a bomb on a timer. Something has to physically trigger the mechanism for it to go off.

    Since he was both the producer, and the actor who physically fired the gun, shooting two people and killing one of them, he has a movie to deny responsibility, which is why we rely on other evidence. The guy who handed the gun to Baldwin, Dave Halls, has also claimed Baldwin didn’t pull the trigger, but he’s in legal jeopardy for handing a gun with live ammo to Baldwin and telling him it was cold. He might hope a faulty gun explanation would deflect some blame.

    Facts:

    The gun was not opened either in front of Alec Baldwin, or by him, to prove it was empty. Nor was it dry fired. It was just handed to him and told it was a cold gun, by someone who did not personally check it, either.

    The gun had live ammo.

    The gun with live fire was pointed at Hutchins and Souza when it was fired, shooting them both.

    Baldwin might not remember pulling the trigger, or perhaps he caught the trigger on some costume element. But saying that he did not pull the trigger has painted him into a corner, because the forensic ballistics test is going to examine that gun. There would have to be some mechanical flaw that would trigger the firing mechanism spontaneously. In the interview, he said he never pointed a prop gun at anyone and pulled the trigger in his life. First, all his movies are evidence. Second, even if he never had pulled a trigger while a prop gun was pointed at someone before, he certainly did so now. That barrel was not bent. It shot what it was pointing at, which was Hutchins and Souza.

    This tragedy was a catastrophic failure of set safety and gun safety. It took a series of people to make unsafe choices for this to happen.I feel very sorry for Alec Baldwin, because this was an accident. But it was a preventable accident.

    I still remember that my Dad told me to treat every gun as if it were loaded. It should never feel comfortable pointing a gun at anyone you don’t intent to shoot, even if the gun is empty. He said a lot of people get shot by supposedly “empty” guns. If someone hands you a gun they say is empty, you’re supposed to check it yourself.

    Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

    1. Revolvers of that era are single action only. This means that simply pulling the trigger would not fire this kind of revolver. The hammer would have to be cocked to the rear and then have the trigger pulled. The likelihood of this weapon firing without the hammer cocked to the rear in very low unless it was dropped or thrown (which didn’t happen).

      1. Anonymous – I agree.

        He physically fired the gun. It had to be cocked. He either pulled the trigger, caught the trigger on something, or otherwise released a cocked hammer. It doesn’t just go off, otherwise gun safes would be bullet riddled inside.

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