'Rust' assistant director David Halls breaks silence: 'I'm shocked and saddened'

He had told detectives earlier he 'should have checked' that all the rounds in the gun were dummy

The crew member who handed Alec Baldwin the loaded gun that killed a cinematographer on the set of Rust expressed his shock and sadness on Monday, in his first public comments since the tragedy.

David Halls' role in the accident on the New Mexico set of a 19th-century Western, in October, has been under scrutiny after he told police he had failed to fully check the firearm before the fatal incident.

In a statement to the New York Post on Monday, Halls said he is "shocked and saddened" by the death of Halyna Hutchins, but did not directly address the shooting or his role.

"Halyna Hutchins was not just one of the most talented people I've worked with, but also a friend," wrote Halls.

"It's my hope that this tragedy prompts the industry to re-evaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again," he said.

Along with armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, first assistant director Halls was responsible for handling and checking weapons on set, and announcing "cold gun" – industry lingo for an inert firearm.

According to a search warrant, he told detectives he "should have checked" that all the rounds in the Colt .45 gun were dummy, or inert, rounds, "but didn't."

A live round fired by Baldwin during rehearsal passed through Halyna Hutchins's body and struck director Joel Souza in the shoulder. Hutchins later died of her injury.

Nearly 100,000 people have since signed a petition to permanently remove firearms from sets, noting that effects such as the loud bang and muzzle flash can easily be added to fake rubber guns in post-production.

In his statement, Halls also said he had been "overwhelmed by the love and support," and wrote, "My thoughts are with all who knew and loved Halyna."

Halls' lawyer did not immediately respond to AFP requests for comment.

His statement came two days after Baldwin's own first public comments on the incident, in which he told reporters that the tragedy was a "one in a trillion episode."

The US actor said he had been advised not to speak directly about the shooting owing to the ongoing police investigation.

Updated: November 2nd 2021, 5:38 AM