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How Rust film death caused by ‘dangerous’ gun could have been avoided, according to ex-cop who worked on Terminator

A FORMER cop who worked on Terminator: Salvation has blasted what he called a "systemic failure" on the set of Rust that led to one crewmember being killed and its director injured.

Paul Szych, a retired Alburquerque Police Department Commander, told The Sun that a "breakdown" in fundamental safety protocol led to Alec Baldwin, 62, fatally shooting cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, on Thursday.

Rust's director, Joel Souza, was also hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his shoulder. He was later discharged.

Calling the shooting an "unthinkable tragedy", Szych said the fatal incident never would've happened if armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, 24, and other members on set had been following the industry's strict safety practices.

"This [only] happens due to a systemic failure to ensure live ammunition is not introduced into the environment," he said.

"The only individuals who should be armed with live ammunition on a movie set is the security detail whose job is to ensure the security of the set and all persons on the set."

Read our Alec Baldwin shooting live blog for the very latest news and updates...

Halyna and Souza were shot while Baldwin was practicing a "cross draw" technique and pointing the weapon towards the camera, an affidavit states.

Souza recounted to investigators working on the case that he heard the phrase "cold-gun" as the weapon handed to Baldwin by assistant director Dave Halls.


As per the document, Souza revealed he had no recollection of whether the "revolver" was actually checked after a lunch break prior to the tragic incident that took place on October 21, 2021.

Souza explained that the firearms on the film set normally go through a safety check process: Armorer Hanna Gutierrez-Reed checks the guns first, followed by Halls.

Also in the affidavit, Detective Kano wrote: "Joel [Souza] said there should never be any life rounds, near or around the scene."

"This breakdown could have occurred during the loading of the firearm and/or if it was left unattended after first being loaded. The firearm should be issued to the actor directly from the person responsible for control over all firearms on the set, who is usually the armorer," he explained.

"Once a scene has finished and there is to be a break for the actors, the firearms should be returned to the armorer and inventoried for inspection and to be made ready for the next scene."

Speaking to his own experience on set, Syzch, who played a soldier in Terminator, said he was involved in dozens of battles where a myriad of prop guns were used, including fully automatic weapons.

After the scenes were completed, all armed actors had to immediately return to the armorer and return all firearms, magazines, and unused rounds.

While noting that such incidents are rare, to avoid future tragedies Szych said there must be "a single point of access and control over every firearm utilized on the set."

"Each blank round must be inspected to ensure it is in fact a blank and not a live round.

"Once loaded with blanks, the firearm must stay in the direct control of the armorer and be issued directly to the assigned actor who has been inspected to ensure the actor is not in possession of any live rounds.

"The firearm must then stay under the direct control of the actor until it is utilized in the scene."


Szych said this "chain-of-custody" must be maintained and repeated each and every time a firearm is used on the set of a production.

The ex-cop also says that while he doesn't believe blank rounds should be banned from all future productions, he believes "prop" firearms used on set must be designed or converted to ensure they cannot fire real bullets.

"Prop guns are very dangerous because most of the time they're not really a 'prop' at all, rather a real firearm being used as a prob," Szych said.

"It is actually a deadly weapon capable of inflicting death and should be handled as such.

"The 'prop' must be incapable of firing live rounds."

Szych added: "This is an unthinkable tragedy that has the potential to negatively impact those involved for the rest of their lives. Actors portray real-life events that are made to be as close to the real thing as possible. However, nothing could have prepared anyone on set for a real-life deadly situation. 

"My heart and prayers go out to all those involved in this tragedy. I think everyone should realize that all persons on the set of this tragic event expected to go home that day safe and sound.

"This event is an example of how the unthinkable and impossible can happen and thus, every possible proactive measure must be in place to ensure that it is actually impossible for this event to ever happen again."


Similar to Szych, special effects coordinator and theatrical firearms safety expert Steve Wolf told CNN that there were three cardinal errors committed on the set of rust that led to the tragedy.

Those errors were using a real gun rather than a prop gun, having a live round in the gun, and having people stand behind the camera in the "line of fire."

He also said the assistant director, Dave Halls, should not have been the one to clear the gun for use before the incident - that should've been the armorer's responsibility, he said.

Hall has a history of "unsafe practices" on set, prop maker Maggie Goll, who working on Hulu's Into The Dark anthology series, has claimed.

One source told The Daily Beast: “She was a bit careless with the guns, waving it around every now and again.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe detective Joel Cano recounted in his report that Souza said “he was looking over the shoulder of Halyna when he heard what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop."

“Joel then vaguely remembers Halyna complaining about her stomach and grabbing her midsection," he wrote. "Joel also said Halyna began to stumble backwards and she was assisted to the ground.

Joel explained that he was bleeding from his shoulder and he could see blood on Halyna.”

In addition to "unsafe practices" being reported, the deadly shooting came just hours after Rust crew members stormed off set over safety concerns.

Another report by the Daily Beast claimed that there were at least two other incidents of a gun being misfired on-set before Thursday's fatal shooting of Hutchins.

“They had two negligent discharges on the same set, on the same day and still had jobs,” a source told the outlet, clarifying the same-day misfirings occurred on Saturday. “They had struck out twice and were given a third opportunity.

“That should be automatic grounds for termination on a union film set, you should be gone," they added.

"The first time that gun went off without telling anybody, that whole department should have been replaced immediately. Clearly, production thought better of it, decided to roll the dice and pay the ultimate price.”

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