Lawyers for Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who died last fall on the New Mexico set of the Western film “Rust” when a gun held by actor and producer Alec Baldwin discharged, are blasting the Santa Fe sheriff’s department for releasing a video showing her last moments.
On Wednesday, two days after law enforcement officials released dozens of videos, photographs and text messages related to the “Rust” investigation, attorneys said New Mexican law enforcement officials “trampled on the constitutional rights of the Hutchins” family, according to a letter obtained by USA TODAY.
Brian Panish, the lawyer for Hutchins’ husband and young son, demanded the sheriff’s department remove a video that shows Hutchins – fighting unsuccessfully for her life as paramedics attend to her – from the data folder.
The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment. Earlier in the week, department spokesperson Juan Rios said the trove of documents were released as a result of requests from both the media and lawyers involved in the case.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, the recipient of Panish’s letter, said Monday that his investigation remains open and ongoing as it awaits the results of ballistics and forensic analysis from the FBI, as well as studies of fingerprint and DNA. Such details are necessarily in order to determine whether criminal charges will be filed.
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The video of Hutchins went public when Radar Online posted a story Monday that contained the body cam clip, labeling it “Viewer Discretion Advised.”
In his letter, Panish wrote that having the video in circulation could particularly affect Hutchins’ son, Andros, 9.
“The potential consequences are disturbing given how information is misused on social media,” he wrote. “We fear, for example, that this shocking footage of Andros’ dying mother may be material used by bullies to emotionally abuse him in the future.”
Central to Panish’s complaint is that the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department offered his client less than a day to review the extensive file of documents. But then that review was scrapped altogether.
“Your office released the materials to the public before releasing them to Mr. Hutchins,” he wrote, adding that the first time Matthew Hutchins saw the video of his dying wife was on Radar Online. “A greater respect for the Hutchins’ constitutional rights would not have allowed this footage to be released.”
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At Bonanza Creek Ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at Hutchins when he went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza. They had been inside a small church setting up a scene.
Data files released Monday by the sheriff’s office also included a video of investigators debriefing Baldwin within hours of the fatal shooting. Also included were rehearsal clips that show Baldwin in costume as he practices a quick-draw maneuver with a gun.
In a video taken by police later that day, Baldwin makes a few frantic calls as he awaits a meeting with law enforcement. “You have no idea how unbelievable this is and how strange this is,” he says on the phone.
“I don’t want to be a public person,” Baldwin tells the person on the phone in that same video. “I’m the one holding a gun in my hand that everyone was supposed to have taken care of.”
He also asked investigators: “Am I being charged with something?”
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In another video, Souza is seen in a hospital bed recounting to a deputy officer what he remembers from the shooting. Souza recalls hearing a “very loud bang” that “felt like someone kicked me in the shoulder.”
“I was down … and then I looked over and see the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with blood coming out of her back.”
“Is she OK?” Souza also asks.
Contributing: Edward Segarra, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press