Detectives Work to Trace How Live Rounds Got on ‘Rust’ Film Set
ALBUQUERQUE — Detectives investigating the deadly shooting on the set of the film “Rust” are trying to determine whether Seth Kenney, who was supposed to provide the production with blanks and dummy rounds, may have sent live ammunition as well, according to court documents filed on Tuesday.
The focus on Mr. Kenney came to light in a warrant issued to search his business in Albuquerque, called PDQ Arm & Prop. Investigators sought the search warrant after crew members told them that ammunition for “Rust” came from various sources, including Mr. Kenney, who has also done business out of Arizona and California.
The fatal shooting took place on Oct. 21, when the actor Alec Baldwin was practicing drawing a gun he had been told contained no live rounds, when it went off, killing the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42, and wounding its director, Joel Souza, 48.
Immediately after the shooting the film’s prop master, Sarah Zachry, inspected the box of ammunition on a props cart on the set and discovered that some cartridges “did not rattle,” according to an affidavit for the search warrant filed Tuesday in Bernalillo County.
Dummy rounds are often distinguished from live rounds by replacing the powder inside with a ball bearing, giving the round a distinctive rattle when shaken.
The fact that the cartridges did not rattle suggested there were other live rounds on set, Ms. Zachry told a detective, according to the court document.
“Sarah said this led her to believe some of the other rounds in that box were live ammo,” according to the affidavit, which was signed by Detective Alexandria Hancock of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office.
The affidavit details efforts by investigators to trace the source of all the ammunition used in the production.
Ms. Zachry said the ammunition on the set had come from “various sources,” according to the affidavit, including from Mr. Kenney; Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, who was said to have brought some from a previous production; and from someone identified only as “Billy Ray.”
Ms. Gutierrez-Reed told investigators that the guns and ammunition used on the “Rust” set had been supplied by Mr. Kenney, according to the affidavit.
On Oct. 27, as the police executed a search warrant on the set, Mr. Kenney told investigators that he had provided the production with dummy rounds and blanks that came from a company called Starline Brass, the affidavit said. Two days later, it said, Mr. Kenney called back to say “he may know where the live rounds came from.”
In that call, Mr. Kenney told the police that a couple of years ago he had received “reloaded ammunition” from a friend, the affidavit said. “Reloaded ammunition” can refer to ammunition that has been reconstituted from the brass casing of a fired round by adding a new bullet, primer and powder, according to Clay Van Sickle, a movie industry armorer.
Mr. Kenney declined to comment in response to a phone call.
Mr. Kenney told investigators that in this case, he believed the ammunition had been reloaded because the cartridge of a live round had the Starline Brass logo on it, and Starline Brass “only sells components of ammunition, and not live ammunition, and therefore it had to be a reloaded round.”
Starline, which is based in Sedalia, Mo., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Another lead on where the live round might have originated came from Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s father, Thell Reed, a weapons expert who has worked and consulted on a number of films.
The detective said that she received a statement from Mr. Reed in mid-November saying that he had worked with Mr. Kenney on another set in August or September where the actors were trained “for live fire with firearms, conducted on a firearms range,” and that Mr. Kenney had asked him to bring extra live ammunition in case they ran out.
“Thell stated he did bring an ‘ammo can’ with live ammunition from a friend,” the affidavit said, “and this ammunition was not factory made rounds.” Mr. Reed said that the can had contained “approximately 200-300 rounds,” the document said.
Mr. Reed told the police that when the production was over, Mr. Kenney had taken the remainder of the ammunition that had been in the can back to New Mexico.
“Thell stated this ammunition may match the ammunition found on the set of ‘Rust,’” the affidavit said.
Suspected live ammunition was among the items taken during a search of the set the day after the shooting, and identified during processing by a crime scene technician, Marissa Poppell, according to the affidavit.