Alec Baldwin Could Still Be Charged Over ‘Rust’ Shooting After Expert Concludes He Pulled the Trigger

Although the actor denies pulling the trigger on the gun that killed Halyna Hutchins and criminal charges against him were dropped, a new gun report disputes his claim

<p>John Lamparski/Getty; Mat Hayward/Getty</p> Alec Baldwin and Halyna Hutchins

John Lamparski/Getty; Mat Hayward/Getty

Alec Baldwin and Halyna Hutchins

After criminal charges against him were dropped, Alec Baldwin may be called into court for the killing of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after all, a new report suggests.

A forensic report obtained by PEOPLE Tuesday concluded that the trigger of the prop Colt .45 revolver that turned out to contain live rounds must have been pulled “sufficiently” enough to cause the accident.

“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,” read the firearms report by experts Lucien Haag and Mike Haag, who were hired by the State of New Mexico in its case against Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. “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.”

Fred Hayes/Getty Halyna Hutchins

Fred Hayes/Getty Halyna Hutchins

In October 2021, Baldwin was holding the gun in question on the New Mexico set of the Western film when it discharged, wounding writer-director Joel Souza and killing Hutchins, 42. The Santa Fe County District Attorney’s Office charged the Rust actor-producer, 65, with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The charges were dismissed without prejudice in April, but prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis wrote in a June 9 court filing that Baldwin could still face charges pending an ongoing investigation into the gun.

“The gun and broken sear have been sent to the state’s independent expert for further testing. The charges against Alec Baldwin were dismissed without prejudice because a possible malfunction of the gun significantly effects 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,” they wrote at the time, adding that they expected to make a final charging decision for Baldwin within the next 60 days of that filing.

In the case against Gutierrez-Reed, the prosecution’s new report includes photos of Baldwin in costume while rehearsing prior to the incident, holding the weapon. In reassembling the gun itself, the report said, it “was found to function properly and in accordance with the operational design of original Colt 1873 single-action revolvers.”

Although “the full-cock step on the hammer had been severely damaged, the top of the trigger’s sear was broken off and the bolt (cylinder stop) was also broken” due to the incident, there was no indication of “any modification to the gun,” the report reads.

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In August 2022, a forensic report from the FBI made similar determinations, including that Baldwin must have pulled the trigger. The gun “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger” unless the hammer was “de-cocked on a loaded chamber” and “the hammer was struck directly,” per that report, which Baldwin’s attorney claimed was “misconstrued.”

In interviews, Baldwin has repeatedly maintained that the gun went off without him pulling its trigger. “The trigger wasn’t pulled,” he said in December 2021. “I didn’t pull the trigger. I would never point a gun at someone and pull the trigger on them, never.”

Related: Everything to Know About Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ Shooting Charges, and What Happens Next?

In April, ABC News reported that the charges against Baldwin were dropped. Two of the Emmy winner’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, said in a statement shared with PEOPLE: “We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident.”

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was also initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, while assistant director David Halls has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

In January, Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb noted in a statement that “if any one of these three people — Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls — had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple. The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set.”

Related: Prosecutors Allege ‘Rust’ Armorer Was Hungover, Resulting in Live Rounds Being Loaded in Gun

Last week, Gutierrez-Reed, 26, pled not guilty. “She looks forward to her day in court, and to having the conduct of everyone on set fully examined,” the armorer’s attorney Jason Bowles said in a statement to PEOPLE. Gutierrez-Reed’s trial is set for December.

Courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Alec Baldwin on the set of "Rust"

Courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust”

Rust resumed and finished production in Montana earlier this year after Baldwin and the film’s producers reached a separate settlement with Hutchins’ widower Matthew, who shares son Andros with her.

“The filming of Rust, which I will now executive produce, will resume with all the original principal players on board in January 2023,” Matthew said in a statement last October. “I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin). All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”

Souza, 50, added, “Those of us who were lucky enough to have spent time with Halyna knew her to be exceedingly talented, kind, creative and a source of incredible positive energy. I only wish the world had gotten to know her under different circumstances, as it surely would have through her amazing work.”

In May, Baldwin shared a photo on Instagram of Rust cast members Patrick Scott McDermott and Frances Fisher, writing, “It’s been a long and difficult road. But we reach the end of the trail today… Nothing less than a miracle.”

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