Alec Baldwin told prop gun didn't contain live round moments before accidentally killing cinematographer

Actor Alec Baldwin was told a prop gun he had been given on the set of a new film did not contain live rounds in it, moments before he accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, according to an affidavit.

An affidavit signed by Detective Joel Cano of the Sante Fe County Sheriff's office, which is investigating the Friday incident at a New Mexico film set, says the movie's assistant director handed Baldwin the prop weapon and yelled out: "cold gun". That's meant to indicate the object doesn't contain live rounds.

The affidavit makes it clear the assistant director "did not know live rounds were in the prop gun" when he handed it to Baldwin.

However, it contained some form of ammunition, not specified in the affidavit, which was shot, striking the cinematographer and injuring the director Joel Souza. Both were taken to hospital, with Hutchins succumbing to a wound to her chest and Souza later being released.

A union, which represents film crew members like prop designers, special effects artists and set builders, said the weapon contained a "live single round". However, those working on this film, titled Rust, were not members of the union. 

Baldwin, a producer on the film, has since released a statement saying he is "fully cooperating with the police investigation" and his "heart is broken" for the family and friends of Hutchins. 

Search warrants have been issued for the film set, with investigators looking to collect any footage of the shooting captured during filming, as well "old Western-style clothing" worn by Baldwin at the time of the incident and bloodied in the aftermath.

No charges have been laid against anyone, with the sheriff's spokesperson, Juan Rios, saying Baldwin was a "free man". 

The shooting has raised concerns about the use of firearms on film sets, with reports also suggesting that several members of Rust's crew had earlier this week walked off the set over working conditions.

Productions are meant to have designated weapon handlers or armourers who are responsible for firearms on the set and ensuring that those using them understand how to handle them safely. It is reported that an armourer was present on Rust's set at the time of the shooting. 

"Every armourer I've ever worked with takes that job outrageously seriously," Ben Rock, a film and television director, told Reuters in an interview.

Rock said he has pushed back on the use of firing blank rounds for years, arguing the "gritty realism" it lends can be replaced by using airsoft guns and adding visual effects in post-production.

"Why is it worth any risk?" Rock said. 'We're also pretending everything else, I don't see why we can't pretend about this too."