'Rust' Crew Walked Off Set Prior to Fatal Shooting in Protest of 'Poor On-Set Safety': Reports

Members of the film's crew reportedly walked off set in protest of on-set safety prior to the fatal shooting.

The Western indie film Rust reportedly had a series of problems before the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Multiple reports noted that prior to the fatal shooting, many union crew members walked off set in protest of "poor" working conditions. There had also been at least one incident of a prop gun misfiring on the Rust set prior to the fatal accident and director Joel Souza being shot, Deadline reports.

Additionally, the Los Angeles Times reports that one crew member who was on the set claimed that Hutchins had been advocating for safer conditions for her team. The member also claimed that as the camera crew -- members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees -- spent about an hour assembling their gear at the New Mexico set, other non-union personnel showed up on set to replace them.

"The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down," Rust Movie Productions, LLC said in a statement to ET on Friday. "We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time."

The Sheriff’s Department in Sante Fe, New Mexico, confirmed to ET on Thursday evening that Alec Baldwin was the one who fired the prop gun which led to the fatal accident.
"This investigation remains open and active. No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives."

The 63-year-old actor discharged a prop gun that killed Hutchins and injured Souza. On Friday, Baldwin took to Instagram to address the on-set incident.

"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 in part. "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." 

Master Armorer Mike Tristano tells ET, "It's unheard of to have something like this happen."

"To have a director of photography killed by an actor using a firearm on set, it's unheard of. And I've done over 600 films and TV shows, you can look me up, and we've never had anything like this happen on set, not even remotely," he expressed. "A gun should never have been loaded and given to an actor during rehearsal, loaded with anything, never mind a real, I don't know how a live round, if it was a live round."

"When an armorer walks on set with a firearm even if it's just a replica, a non-firing gun, you have to show for safety that the gun is clear or not real or whatever it is before it's ever handed to an actor," he continued. "So many questions that don't make sense. This should never have happened. Ever. I don’t believe it for a minute that it's his fault."

Additionally, Stephen Gutowski, who is a firearms reporter and gun-safety instructor, expressed that the incident appeared to be "a breach in safety protocol." He also noted that it's beyond comprehension why live ammunition was put in this situation and unsafely used.

"It's beyond comprehension to me how live ammunition would've been put in a situation where it was gonna be unsafely used by a number of crew members, or with a number of crew members present to the point where somebody was shot and killed," he expressed. "That's truly a huge, huge breach of protocol."

While the use of blanks can potentially be dangerous if not properly overseen, Gutowski said incidents like these are not common.

Hutchins was transported by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque after the incident, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department previously confirmed to ET. She was pronounced dead by medical personnel at the hospital. 

Souza, meanwhile, was transported by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical center in Santa Fe, and has since been released.

It's unclear how the incident occurred or the circumstances surrounding the discharging of the prop gun. 

Amid the tragic news, The Rookie showrunner Alexi Hawley banned "live" guns on the ABC show's set.

"The tragic events in New Mexico yesterday have shaken us all, and our hearts go out to the friends and family of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza. As of today, it is now policy on The Rookie that all gunfire on set will be Air Soft guns with CG muzzle flashes added in post," read Hawley's memo to the team obtained by ET. "There will be no more 'live' weapons on the show. The safety our cast and crew is too important. Any risk is too much risk. As always, if you ever feel unsafe or witness anything that concerns you, please don’t hesitate to report it."

For more on the incident, see below.