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Sheriff in ‘Rust’ investigation discusses ‘concerning’ text messages

<i>Jae C. Hong/AP/File</i><br/>
Jae C. Hong/AP/File

By Stella Chan and Josh Campbell, CNN

A day after releasing videos and documents related to the fatal shooting on the “Rust” movie set, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told NBC’s “Today” that text messages are “concerning” and the investigation continues into who brought live ammunition on set.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot and director Joel Souza injured during a rehearsal for a scene in in the film on the New Mexico set in October.

“Right now, no one has come forward and admitted to bringing the live rounds onto the movie set. There was information from text messages that was concerning based on the fact that live ammo was spoken about and was possibly used on a prior movie set and that was just a few months before the ‘Rust’ movie set production began, so that is concerning,” said Sheriff Mendoza.

Among the items investigators are looking at are text messages “Rust” film armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed shared with an ammunition supplier for a previous film in 2021 — not “Rust” — where she stated that she planned on shooting live ammunition while on set.

The text exchange was included in Monday’s public release of files related to the Santa Fe County Sheriff Office’s ongoing investigation.

A law enforcement official told CNN they consider the text exchange important as they try to determine whether the armorer made a practice of conducting live fire exercises at the same time she was responsible for safety on sets.

Gutierrez Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles told CNN his client wanted to fire the gun to understand how the historical weapon worked, and maintains she didn’t fire live rounds on set.

Mendoza said the investigation into the case is more than 200 pages right now and they’re still waiting on forensics reports from the FBI and the final report from the office of the medical investigator.

“It’s hard to determine right now, the route that the case is going to go,” he said. “I’ve said this before, I think there was complacency on the set. There was disorganization and a degree of negligence. Whether that rises to a criminal level, that will be up to the district attorney.”

He also said whether actor Alec Baldwin will be ultimately held responsible for the shot that killed the movie’s cinematographer and injured the assistant director will be left to the District Attorney’s office.

“I don’t think anybody is off the hook when it comes to criminal charges,” Mendoza said.

In an effort to be “transparent” about the “Rust” shooting investigation, Sheriff Mendoza said the extensive information release was part of a public records request.

“As you can see, it’s a tremendous amount of information, and it took us some time to put it together and we tried to release it as soon as we had everything together and we had an avenue to release the information,” Mendoza said.

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