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Charges against Alec Baldwin could be refiled as forensic report shows trigger on gun used in ‘Rust’ shooting had to be pulled

<i>John Lamparski/Getty Images</i><br/>Alec Baldwin
John Lamparski/Getty Images
Alec Baldwin

By Jamiel Lynch, CNN

(CNN) — Independent testing on the weapon used in the fatal 2021 shooting on the set of the film “Rust” shows the trigger had to be pulled, the gun fired normally and it did not malfunction, according to a report filed in court, raising the possibility charges could be refiled against actor Alec Baldwin.

“The fired evidence cartridge is the consequence of a normal hammer fall from the fully cocked position of the hammer,” the report compiled by Forensic Science Services of Arizona states.

The report was filed as part of a defense motion on behalf of the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who is charged with tampering with the gun used in the shooting as well as two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Baldwin has maintained he pulled back the gun’s hammer as far as he could without cocking the gun and released the hammer – but did not pull the trigger. CNN’s calls to him for comment on the report were not immediately returned.

The October 2021 shooting on a New Mexico film set killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza. They were struck by a live round of ammunition fired from a prop gun held by Baldwin while rehearsing a scene, officials have said.

The new testing by examiners in New Mexico was conducted using a replacement “hammer, trigger/sear and bolt,” according to their report, rather than the gun’s original components. The weapon – broken during tests run by the FBI and inoperable when Forensic Science Services got it – then was returned to operable condition.

Involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin lodged in January were dismissed in April, when special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis said charges could be refiled. A final decision has not been made, Morrissey told CNN on Wednesday.

“The charges against Alec Baldwin were dismissed without prejudice because a possible malfunction of the gun significantly affects causation with regard to Baldwin, not with regard to Gutierrez. If it is determined that the gun did not malfunction, charges against Mr. Baldwin will proceed,” with “a final charging decision … within the next sixty days,” prosecutors said in a June court filing.

If a new charge is filed against Baldwin, the actor’s defense team likely would focus on the structural integrity of the gun at the time of the shooting.

“Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” the report states.

“If the hammer had not been fully retracted to the rear and were to slip from the handler’s thumb without the trigger depressed, the half cock or quarter cock notches in the hammer should have prevented the firing pin from reaching any cartridge in the firing chamber,” it reads.

“From an examination of the fired cartridge case and the operationally restored evidence revolver, this fatal incident was the consequence of the hammer being manually retracted to its fully rearward and cocked position followed, at some point, by the pull or rearward depression of the trigger,” the report said.

“The only conceivable alternative to the foregoing would be a situation in which the trigger was already pulled or held rearward while retracting the hammer to its full cock position. Although unlikely and totally contrary to the normal operation of these single action revolvers, such improper handling, would result in the discharge of a live cartridge,” it added.

Investigators have not determined how and why live rounds were on the set of the movie.

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CNN’s Jeremy Harlan and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.

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