FBI: Baldwin must have pulled the trigger... probably

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

When we first learned of the accidental shooting death of Halyna Hutchins and the injury of an assistant director on the set of Alec Baldwin’s movie, I never would have imagined that we still wouldn’t have any firm answers nearly ten months later. An accidental firearms discharge, even if was caused by a cascading series of failures in gun safety protocols, should have been cleared up by now. And yet here we are. The latest phase of the investigation involved a forensic analysis by the FBI that sought to determine if it was possible for the discharge to take place in the way that Alec Baldwin described. The Bureau’s conclusion? Baldwin must have fired the revolver normally by pulling the trigger rather than having it accidentally discharge because he was “fiddling with the hammer.” But there’s a significant caveat that comes along with that conclusion. (TMZ)

The FBI has concluded that Alec Baldwin must have fired the gun normally on the set of “Rust” — which took Halyna Hutchins’ life … this according to a new report.

ABC News published a bombshell story Friday, claiming to have obtained a copy of the forensic analysis report recently completed by the Bureau … which was examining all facets of the fatal accident in a broader investigation to see if criminal charges are warranted.

Per ABC, citing part of the FBI report, the feds found that the revolver in question — a single-action .45 Colt caliber F.lli Pietta — could not have been fired without someone pulling the trigger … a determination they made after conducting accidental discharge testing.

We’ve gone over the mechanics of how a Colt .45 revolver operates in the past so we don’t need to walk through all of that again. There are four positions the hammer can be in (down, cocked, quarter-cocked, and half-cocked) and only a couple of ways to cause the hammer to discharge the round. Baldwin claimed that he had been pulling the hammer back when the gun discharged and he “never” pulled the trigger. The FBI disagrees, saying that the round wouldn’t have discharged if that was how the shot took place.

But here’s the major sticking point. That would only be true if the gun were in proper working order. The report obtained by ABC News doesn’t say if they were testing the actual revolver used in the shooting or another one of the same model. So if the firearm from the set of Rust was faulty, it’s still possible that Baldwin’s account could be correct.

But that really doesn’t make any sense, does it? Why would the FBI conduct a forensic analysis of a different revolver? It’s not as if the inner workings of a Colt .45 are a mystery. They could quickly be informed as to how the revolver was supposed to work. The question is whether or not that’s how Baldwin’s revolver worked.

So if it turns out that the FBI was testing the actual gun used on the set, does that mean that Baldwin is in legal peril? Not necessarily. And if so, probably not all that much. There is still zero indication that he had any intention to harm anyone on the set. He will have questions to answer as to why he claimed to have never pulled the trigger if he actually did. But a good attorney should be able to argue that his memory was fogged in the immediate aftermath of an unexpected, horrifying development. He was also culpable for not checking the weapon to ensure there were blanks in it before using it, but he was only one of many people who failed in that chain of custody.

For what it’s worth, ABC News has released a few more details of the forensic testing, but they don’t go much further than what’s covered above. There still haven’t been any charges filed as a result of the shooting. Will there ever be? We can’t rule it out entirely, but if charges are eventually filed, Alec Baldwin shouldn’t take the fall by himself, in my opinion. The firearms safety protocols on that set were a disaster from beginning to end. Many people in the chain of custody could have prevented Halyna Hutchins from dying that day and they all bear some culpability here.

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